Kristen Ashley writes erotic romantic contemporaries featuring heroines with low self-esteem and the dirty-mouth anti-heroes with whom they fall in love. Since her first book hit the scene in 2008, Ms. Ashley has made readers laugh, groan, chuckle, snort, and exclaim out loud over the crazy, insane journeys her h/h have to take in order to find their HEA. What is most appealing to me is that these characters aren’t people I would like—or even associate with in the real world. It takes talent to engage and hold my attention with situations and characters that I would probably smack viciously and repeatedly, were I to ever meet them in real life. Her books are like train wrecks. Not particularly well written or edited, but once you start reading, you can’t look away. You will rubberneck your way from beginning to end.
From this reader’s point of view, it’s the anti-heroes in these books who are the hook. They all have a strong alpha/caveman mentality that brooks no compromise—if you met them in real life, you’d walk away and never look back. They are rude, crude, bossy, opinionated, and have no filters. But they aren’t abusive; they just follow their own paths and have serious communication issues. These anti-heroes are who they are and make no apologies for their behavior, which doesn’t change through the course of the story. It’s not about finding that one person who will cause the anti-heroes become better human beings. These heroes are quite happy the way they are and see no reason to change, or even want to change. What you see is what you get. But they reveal a new side to their personality when they find a woman they want to be with that still is in keeping with their Alpha status. They are protective and observant when it comes to their women.
Amy, a reviewer at FictionVixen.com and a total Kristen Ashley addict, comments “...it’s sexy that her heroes are so observant because most men are not. It’s also sexy that they all want the heroines to see themselves in such a positive manner and realize they are women of worth. In the end, the heroes are lucky as hell to have them and the heroines end up feeling the same way about their sexy, bossy asshats, lol.”
The majority of the stories Ms. Ashley writes revolve around the heroine and her need to find herself. Usually the heroine has been through a bad relationship. She meets the hero, who is a complete arse, and begins the painful journey of learning to stand on her own two feet. Once the heroine starts this journey, the hero sees her through different eyes, and she becomes the woman he didn’t know he was missing in his life. Of course, there are normal shake ups and pitfalls. No relationship is smooth sailing, especially with these screwed-up people.
Ms. Ashley doesn’t make this process easy for the hero. The woman in her books might have low self esteem, but only a few of them are completely stupid. As the heroine’s esteem rises, so do her standards. The heroes often have to do some serious damage control. The HEAs are doable; they fit the hero and heroine to a tee. It may not be what we hope for, but it works for the characters.
Here are a few cracktaculor selections from Ms. Ashley. As I’ve stated before, you will either love these books or hate them. But you will never forget them.
Rock Chick, the first of the Rock Chick series, tells Andy Savage’s story. Cop daughter, rocker chick, and bookstore owner, she has been in love with the owner of Nightingale Investigations since she was five. When Leo Nightingale makes it clear that they will never be an item, Indy declares herself over him and goes about her merry way. Unfortunately, Indy gets herself in trouble with some stolen diamonds and a lovesick mobster. Now she needs Leo’s help, but Leo wants more than to help—he wants Indy’s heart. Too bad Indy’s over Leo...or is she? Crazy, insane, over-the-top antics makes this a hilarious read. There are seven books in this series.
“Maybe we should have this conversation in an alternate universe where Alternate Indy gives a shit what Alternate Leo wants her to wear.”
― Kristen Ashley, Rock Chick
The Colorado Mountain series is a favorite among the Ashley addicts. While the characters are still over the top, the storyline is better plotted and easier to relate to. The first in the series, The Gamble, tells the story of Nina Sheridan and Holden Maxwell. Nina has taken a time out from her clueless fiance and decides on a Colorado adventure might be the trick to sorting out her conflicted feelings. She meets Holden (Max), and immediately butts heads with him. When she is lost in a snowstorm and becomes ill, Max nurses her back to health and decides that her adventure needs to include him. Add in a town full of nosy people and a murder mystery, and you have a laughter filled ride to an HEA from Hell. There are 3 books in this series.
“Shut up and kiss me, Duchess.”
“All right, I’ll kiss you.”
― Kristen Ashley, The Gamble
The Dream Man series is darker, with extreme anti-heroes whose laissez faire attitudes towards sex and women in general leave you cringing while reluctantly drawing you into the stories. Often our anti-hero has very good reasons for being a complete arse. Mystery Man, the first in the series, shows how our heroine Gwen meets the man of her dreams, takes him home, and sleeps with him. She proceeds to be fuckbuddies with him for two years, allowing him to visit her in the dead of the night with no real potential for a relationship. She never even learns his name. When her sister gets into some trouble, Gwen finds herself in over her head, and her mystery man rides to her rescue. Only Gwen isn’t as impressed with her mystery man in the light of day and tells him to take a hike. Now, mystery man Cabe Delgado has to prove to Gwen that he is still the man of her dreams, day and night.
“Don’t call me baby when you’re pissed, Sweet Pea.”
“Don’t call me Sweet Pea at all, baby.”
― Kristen Ashley, Mystery Man