by Kristen Ashley
Book 3 in the Chaos series
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The ride of her life . . .
Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy---until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling, single mom and stranded by a flat tire, Carissa's pondering her mistakes when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.
Climb on and hold tight . . .
In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he's the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa's acting, it's clear she's falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker's secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa---or ride away forever . . .
Some of my favorite Kristen Ashley books feature really, really broken heroes – Vance Crowe from Rock Chick Renegades and Ty Walker from Lady Luck first come to mind. Carson “Joker” Steele joins this list. There is no use in comparing the pain between these broken men, they all suffered terribly. However, what makes Carson’s story standout is that we get to be witness not only to his redemption, but also his self-actualization.
Carson comes back after leaving Denver before the end of his senior year. He fulfills his dream of being a member of Chaos motorcycle club and to work at Ride, their custom made shop. In a twist of fate, he runs into his high school crush, Carissa Teodoro.
Carissa has heavy burdens to bear. She has been “thrown away” by her husband for a “newer model” while she was pregnant. This is a staggering blow to her self-esteem. With very little financial support and few friends or family to turn to, Carissa struggles to make it on her own. Meeting Joker changes her life as she is brought into the Chaos fold.
The story between Joker and Carissa is sweet, exhibiting the kind of tenderness that makes you want to cry. Both have such gaping holes in their lives and to bear witness to how they help each other fill that gap is beautiful. Kristen Ashley has a special gift of identifying her character’s darkest fears and greatest joys and makes them completely accessible and relatable to the reader. This is why we cry and cheer with our characters.
But what I also like about this story is the evolution of Carson Steele. Carson grew up in a very abusive household. From this dark place, there were a few solid people who offered him a light. Even as a child, he wondered how he would be able to pay these people back:
So he’d forgotten how that felt. How deep it ran. How intense the desire was, how extreme the hope was that you’d one day be in a position to give back to those who put brightness in a dark life, cutting through the black.
But sometimes we cannot repay to those who have done for us and then Carson learns what life is really about:
The good he got from the people who cared for him set him up to return it, maybe not to them, but to people who deserved it. And that was what it was all about. The meaning of life. Why every person on the planet was there.
The change in his thinking from “paying back” the generosity of those who showed him kindness, to focuses it outward, paying it forward, to serve others, that is part of his self-actualization. It is such a little line in the book, but for me, a huge comment for the real world.
If I had one small critique of this story, it would be the on-going drama with Benito Valenzuela. Valenzuela is Chaos’ biggest rival and he periodically shows up – looming, threatening Chaos. (On a side note, if you have read the Rock Chick series, you know this directly relates to Darius and Shirleen’s story. Such a nice perk to the Rock Chick series fans). But Valenzuela has been looming for a while and although there is an interesting scene in this story, I’d like to see this thread/threat advance more seriously. I have no doubt it will in the near future. I just keep waiting for the shoe to drop!
IN A NUTSHELL:
Beautiful and brilliant, brimming with emotion. I loved it and I’m sure I’ll be reading it yet again sometime soon.