We’re reading our way across America…one romance at a time.
Colorado: Rock Chick by Kristen Ashley
Heading to Colorado—home of Aspen, Stargate Command and Celestial Seasonings tea—for this next stop in our romance novel tour of America (the Centennial State was 38th to join the Union, by the by) was the perfect opportunity for me to at last check out Kristen Ashley’s Rock Chick, the 2011 indie-release-made-good about which I had heard so many excellent things.
The book, and the series it spawned, are set in Denver, and rarely has a place come so alive to me in prose as it did within these pages. From exploring various neighborhoods to hitting up local restaurants by what felt like the dozen, Rock Chick is as much Zagat guide as it is fun-filled crime caper; certainly, if I ever find myself in Denver, I’ll know where to go for the best sushi (Sushi Den), the best Mexican (Las Delicias), and the best Chinese (Twin Dragon).
But added to Denver’s allure here is the spirited India “Indy” Savage, bookstore-owner and self-proclaimed Rock Chick. The 30-year old daughter of a police detective, her wild hellion days might be behind her, but that doesn’t mean she’s given up the holy Rock Chick trinity of loud music, short skirts and high heels. As Indy describes each outfit she dons in loving detail, they sure do sound cute, each apparently suiting her buxom frame to perfection.
Endlessly appreciative of these efforts is Indy’s long-time crush, Liam “Lee” Nightingale, her best-friend’s older brother, with whom she claims to have been in love “since I was five.” Lee is a special ops-trained security expert, and when Indy is suddenly embroiled in the affairs of Denver’s apparently teeming underworld as a result of her barista’s shady dealings, she ends up under Lee’s protection—and in Lee’s bed.
Let’s begin with all the good in this book, because plentiful good there is. Indy is super-adorable, funny, feisty, fearless. (If, as she cheerfully admits, “not that smart.”) Her plentiful friends and relations are a treat, and even the bit characters that crop up along the way—the ever-respectful Mr. Kumar, the slightly-unhinged Tex, among others—are given life and purpose in only a few short sentences. Indy’s first person style is breezy and charming; the sex scenes she recounts are of my favorite “after we were done” variety (though the build up to them never fails to be captivatingly suggestive); she is reckless and yet resilient in that awesomely silly Stephanie Plum kind of way; and I pretty much love everything about her.
Except when it comes to Lee.
Now, look. The domineering alpha male is a standby of our beloved genre, and can be as sexy as hell, I totally get that. But Lee takes things to a whole other level, and Indy, while occasionally railing against his many strictures on her behavior, always, always gives into his controlling, domineering ways. And that is one thing when he is only trying to keep her safe from abduction, torture and worse, but quite another when she is justly pissed off with him for daring to tell her what to wear, for goodness’ sake, and he forcibly takes her from her place of refuge and then orgasms her into forgiving him. Oh, it’s not non-consensual at all, but there is a lot of using sex as a weapon here—and frankly, right from the first time Lee tried to blackmail Indy into bed, I was no fan of his. But it’s like when a good friend dates a total dick, you know? You can be happy for her, even though you disapprove of her choice, because clearly she is happy—and it’s not like Lee doesn’t have some redeeming qualities. Honesty, for one. Plus: hot.
There are many other hot, not to mention dangerous and seductive, men offered up in this book, and several of them get their own romances as the series progresses—the eighth and last, Rock Chick Revolution, was released just last month, and gives us the tale of Indy’s best-friend Ally, with whom we also spend a fair bit of time here. I have issues with her too, though: how selfish, to be mad at your best friend for being mad at your brother just because you want a niece named after you. And damned presumptuous, as well! Still, I must say that I am eager to see some action for Eddie and Hank and Vance and Luke and Mace, though the teaser for the second book, Rock Chick Rescue, provided at the end of this one, does, appear to present us with a heroine somewhat lifeless and blah in comparison with the sparky Indy.
Nevertheless, I will certainly see out the series, because while I may take issue with Lee and his high-handed treatment of his one true love (as well as her eventual capitulation to his every whim), I am already insanely fond of all those secondary characters. More than that, I think Ashley’s writing style can be best summed up as “addictive,” and I am not one to try to resist such temptation—especially when it is this entertaining.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.