And I say that from the perspective of someone who has read, loved, and reviewed over 40 Kristen Ashley books. But this one just hit all the right marks. It was a perfectly balanced and beautifully written romance with heat, heart, and happiness. I can’t recommend it highly enough! This was Vintage KA gold!
KA is known for her rather lengthly books but I read this in one non-stop stilling. It was everything I could wish for. After finishing the last page of the epilogue I just sat there with my heart pounding, happy tears spilling out of my eyes, and the hugest smile on my face. This is undoubtedly one of MY TOP FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR!!
Johnny Gamble was an Alpha hero to his core. He was protective, possessive, loyal, kind-hearted, caring, sexy, swoony, sometimes infuriating but humble enough to admit his mistakes. His past has left his heart damaged, but when Izzy came into his life, he fell so hard for her. Izzy was strong, sassy, and down to earth. I loved them together!
Oh AND you should know — there is no love triangle in this book. I know a few of you were worried about that based on the blurb but I cross my heart and promise you that there isn’t even a whiff of a triangle. Johnny’s ex is a painful part of his past and her arrival back in town is something he needs to deal with for sure, but at no point does he ever even consider getting back together with her. I just want to reassure you and promise that there is no triangle!
OK now I’m getting way ahead of myself here. Especially if you have no idea what the book is about yet and you’re just staring at my review so far like “huuuuh???” So let me backtrack and introduce you to this story:
As you can imagine from the title, it all begins with a hookup. Izzy wasn’t the kind of girl to go home with anyone after the first date — ever — let alone after just meeting them. But Johnny was different. He was considerate, caring, and thoughtful. But also fuckhot and completely un-shy about how much he was interested in her.
She’d never met a man like him. He was Alpha to his core. It was in his very nature and soul to be the way he was. And she knew deep down that there was something deeply good about him.
Their night had been incredible, and their morning more so. And even though little time had passed since they met, she could feel a connection pass between them. A connection she hoped might be the start of something real.
I liked the solidness of him and this didn’t come just from him being built. It came from him looking right into my eyes, taking hold of me right away, making me feel welcome there, like he was glad I used his toothpaste, his mouthwash, helped myself to a cup of coffee, woke up naked in his bed. He wasn’t going to load me up in his truck and take me back to my car in town and be done with me, not looking back.
This was something else. This was… It was a beginning of something.
But as much as he opened up to her in bed, she could tell he was keeping some walls up. And it didn’t take long for her to learn his story. It was a small town and while she was new, everyone knew his history. Years ago, he’d been in love with a woman who the whole town was sure would be his forever. But she up and left him one day choosing another life over their relationship, leaving behind destruction and his broken heart in her wake.
“F**k,” he whispered, his arms spasming around me. My voice got soft again. “Johnny, it’s okay.” His voice got soft too. “I wish I met you before she fucked me up.”
Izzy was warned that the damage done to his heart might never heal and she deserved to be more than a runner up. She knew that. He knew that. And just as they were beginning to explore their something new, his ex returned. He had to deal with that. She had to deal with that. And I don’t want to spoil the way things shake out but a) I promise there’s no love triangle, b) I promise there’s no stupid drama, and c) I promise that I loved everything about this story!
“Is she back?” “Oh no. Hell no.” His forehead rolled on mine as he underlined a negative I thought I understood, but when he went on I would find I did not. “She doesn’t get this. She doesn’t get us. We’ve talked about her all we’re ever gonna talk about her. She doesn’t get to be a part of whatever it is that’s gonna be the me and you we become.”
I think Johnny is a great example of how an Alpha can seem to be a dick but the more you understand them, the more you understand that it was you who’d read the situation wrong. Or, if they really were a dick, then their true colors shine through when they apologize. Every time Johnny said something that made me squinty, it was followed shortly with what I had to admit was a damn logical reason and usually after that came an understanding that no matter how good his reasons, he had been a dick and he was sorry. It’s hard not to be forgiving of that.
“I liked what you were doing. Too much. It was taking my mind off where I needed to be at, that being seein’ to you. I got slightly pissed about that and didn’t communicate that very well. I was unintentionally a dick, but I was still a dick and that wasn’t cool. I said I was sorry but I want you to know, Iz, that I really am.”
I also found Izzy to be a very level headed and relatable heroine. She was smart. She might have been in new waters with the hookup but it didn’t mean she wasn’t able to see everything that was happening. She was hopeful that their hookup would lead to more but after learning of his past, she was understanding that it might never go anywhere. So it was up to him to show her how much she truly meant to him. And my #1 favorite thing about her was the way she did not care what anyone else thought of her life. People could gossip and judge to their hearts’ content, but as long as she and Johnny were square and happy, that was the only thing that mattered.
“I gotta reassure you that I’m with you because I wanna be with you and I’m not with her because of history. I’m not with her because I wanna be with you.”
This couple just made my heart happy. I could see how well they fit into each other’s lives. Given no complications, I could easily have seen them slide right into a forever filled with love and beauty but they admittedly did hit a snag when his ex returned. Johnny knew he owed Izzy more than whatever was left of him. And while I was worried a little at first, the more I read, the more I realized that they were working their way in the right direction.
Just trust KA. This story is BEAUTIFUL.
“You want some?” he whispered. “Yes,” I whispered back immediately. “How many?” he asked, still whispering. “Fifteen, but I’ll take one if he’s healthy and happy.” His heated eyes warmed a different way. “Fifteen is a tall order.” “Thus me being happy with just one.” His eyes dropped to my mouth and his voice became a growl. “Fuck, I wanna kiss you.”
And just… holy squeeeee!!! If you have any doubts about how truly and deeply Johnny feels for Izzy, his epic monologue at 47% (which I highlighted from start to fucking finish) will cure you of them once and for all. I promise you that he will steal your heart and I definitely paused to re-read that scene twice over because it was that good!
My favorite thing about them as a couple was how FUNCTIONAL they were. For a guy who came into a new relationship with as much baggage as he carried, it was really on him to bring the stability into their new relationship and reassure her given that all the drama was coming from his side. And he did. He COMMUNICATED. Explained things. Talked openly with her. Reassured when needed, and acted so responsably. I was so impressed!
Seriously EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK WAS PERFECT!!! THE FEELS!! THE FAMILY!! THE HOTNESS!!
This book almost reminded me a lot of KA’s earlier 2012 releases which so many of us loved. It’s kind of more in line with the feeling of Mystery Man, The Gamble, Lady Luck, and so on. There’s not a lot of suspense (although there are a few scenes where things get very intense), it’s more heavily focused on pure romance and there’s a lot of delightful family dynamics which KA truly excels at. It really felt very Vintage KA in the best of ways right down to the classic “90% freak out” that any true old school KA fan will instantly recognize and holyy did the shit ever hit the fan. It was intense, messy, and yet I loved the way Johnny put everything on the line to protect the ones he loved.
If you’re new to KA books, this would actually be a great one to start with if you want! It’s very quintessential KA style and I think its storyline and characters will appeal to pretty much anyone who loves reading romance.
Also, I sincerely hope that Toby and Addie are the next book or a future book in this series because I absolutely adore them and would read their book in a heartbeat!
Like I said, this is one of the best books Kristen Ashley has ever written!! It’s gorgeous, romantic, addictive, and purely amazing! I can’t recommend it highly enough!