Feb 4 2014 4:30pm

First Look: Kristen Ashley’s Kaleidoscope (February 4, 2014)

Kaleidoscope by Kristen AshleyKristen Ashley
Forever / February 4, 2014 / $3.79 digital

Sexy, gifted, and loyal, PI Jacob Decker is a tall, cool drink of perfection who had Emmanuelle Holmes at “hello.” His relationship with Emme's best friend kept them apart for years, but things have changed. Now that a case has brought him to Gnaw Bone, Colorado, the road is wide open for Emme and Deck to explore something hotter and deeper than Emme dreamed possible. So why is she sabotaging the best thing that's ever happened to her?

It isn't easy to catch Deck off guard, but Emme does just that when she walks back into his life after nine long years. The curvy brunette had her charms back in the day, but now she's a bona fide knockout . . . and she wants to rekindle their friendship. Deck, however, wants more. Emme's always been the one; she excites Deck's body and mind like no other woman can. But a dark chapter from Emme's past overshadows their future together. Now only Deck can help her turn the page-if she'll let him . . .

The title of Kristen Ashley’s new book represents an object of affection, a talisman, and a concrete symbol of the enduring relationship between Emme and Deck. Emme gave a kaleidoscope to Deck as a farewell memento when he broke up with her best friend, thus ending their sweet, intimate three-year friendship. The kaleidoscope is also emblematic of how it’s possible to shake up a friendship and watch the pieces swirl into a pattern of love. Fans of the friends to lovers trope will want to bookmark Ashley’s latest. We’re back in Gnaw Bone, Colorado, where the community is like another character in Ashley’s world: demanding, supportive, nosy, protective. The community represents family.

There are so many things to like about Kristen Ashley heroines and high on the list is their vibrant embrace of life on life’s terms. They have boyfriends, one-night-stands, pickups, and hookups. It’s not unusual for an Ashley heroine to have one on the hook, as it were, when she meets her one and only. What better opportunity for her—and her new Mr. Right—to compare and contrast? When McFarland, Emme’s current boyfriend and lover, first meets Deck:

…he took Deck’s hand. He squeezed and he did it hard, a challenge, a competition. His ludicrously strong grip saying either he didn’t like his girl having men friends no matter how they came or that he’d noted Deck had three inches on him and likely forty pounds, but he felt he could still take him.

Or it said both.

This guy was a dick.

Years earlier in Denver, Emme and Jacob Decker had been friends. His girlfriend Elsbeth was Emme’s BFF who “had eventually not been a big fan of Deck’s friendship with her.” It comes as a surprise to Deck to find Emme living in Gnaw Bone, far away from her tight-knit family. His memories of Emme are that,

…she was sweet, funny, interesting, and no one but his best friend Chace Keaton gave better conversation. But even if it made him a dick for thinking it, she was always sexless. She made it that way. Worked at it.

But the Emme he runs into on the sidewalk is attractively dressed, well-coiffed, and far from sexless. Deck is bemused and a tad scornful when he watches McFarland “load Emme up in a big, red, flash, totally pimped out, my-dick-is-small GMC Sierra.” Such a classic Ashley description.

Deck is observant by nature: he is a talented private detective and he’s been asked to assist the local police in uncovering the masterminds of a disturbing local theft ring. No wonder Deck examines everyone and everything, including Emme and her underwhelming beau. It’s mesmerizing to watch Deck on shaky ground as he balances his responsibility to solve a crime with his need and his desire to move in on Emme after all these years.

Objects in an Ashley story often represent what’s important, in big ways and small. Like Deck’s feelings about coffee.

He had the means to have the finer things in life and therefore accepted nothing less … Deck ground his coffee fresh first thing in the morning, he bought it on the internet. It cost a fucking whack. And it was worth it.

It’s a neon sign of sorts. Deck gets what he wants. This becomes even more clear as Deck discovers the depths and pleasures of becoming reacquainted with Emme. He discovers she’s running her family’s hardware business and renovating a huge mansion on the side (yes, the house porn for which Ashley is so justifiably famous is out in full force in Kaleidoscope). The two old friends decide to have dinner together, as Deck shares with his good friend Chace (from Breathe).

I’m havin’ dinner with her tonight and she looks good, man, but she acts the same. And her man is a dick but he’s also a moron. So he’s no boss.

Deck, always called Jacob by Emme, realizes when he sees Emme again that he wants it all, the shallow and the spectactular—does that mean a babe with a brain? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a tad but it wasn’t just Emme’s best friend status with Elsbeth that stood in their way years earlier. Emme was a buddy, a fabulous companion, someone Deck could really talk to, but her demeanor and her mannerisms gave off a not too subtle message of touch-me-not. First things first, Deck eliminates Emme from his list of suspects.

He figured this from his Internet research and the fact that reports stated, when Emme wasn’t working, getting her hair done, going to Denver to visit family and friends or fucking McFarland, she was working on her house. On her own. She didn’t have time to work in or lead a burglary crew.

Step two, Deck and Emme do what they’d always done so well, which was full-bodied, all-in, talking. Some things never changed. Deck reminisces about how Emme “sat close with her knee touching yours and leaned in, holding your eyes and doing it steady. Giving you her full attention.” Even her mannerisms made him sit up and want more,

She always sat on her leg or cross-legged or with her knees up, arms around her calves or with both legs twisted under her, folding herself up, tangling her limbs … She was rarely sedentary, even during a conversation. He had no idea why but he’d always found all that appealing too.

Thank you Emme for stating the obvious when Deck spends a little too much attention to the outside of the package instead of, hello, unwrapping it!

“Wow. I grew my hair, Jacob. And got some highlights,” she told him. “Really not a big deal.”

“And took off weight and got a new wardrobe.”

Emme is at a place in her life where she wants to reach out and risk. She’s had boyfriends but as of yet, her orgasms have been of the Meg Ryan demonstrating to Billy Crystal variety. And faking it hasn’t led to making it. However, with Deck in the picture, it’s no stretch to believe that someone’s luck and libido are about to change. The warm-up conversation, when Deck tells Emme she’s got to the weekend to “scrape” off her boyfriend fairly sizzles on the page,

His hand at my head pulled me slighty back, his fingers drifted through my hair to my temple then curled so the backs could glide lightly across my cheek and down, touching the side of my lip in a way that was a promise I felt sear through me from lips, through my heart, straight between my legs.

Another constant with Kristen Ashley is even when things are heating up between a man and a woman, her girl posse is never put on ice. Not at all. The ladies of Gnaw Bone share salaciously salty advice with the new girl in the club, especially when she’s in the throes of it-has-never-been-so-good-passion.

“I hope it’s good but not great,” Krystal remarked. “Sex slave to an alpha. Bad news.” This time my head didn’t jerk. I blinked again.

She had to be in her forties but she hit that age in a happy way, lots of hair, biker babe look that I thought was the bomb, a fabulous figure.

Krystal tells Emme in no uncertain terms that her relationship with herself comes first, no matter how fabulous and sensitive the guy: “Don’t lose that because of who he is, how he is, or that he can give it to you like you like it. Don’t lose it for you.”

Just as an aside, how great are the shout outs and serious appreciation Ashley gives to gorgeous women in the prime of life? Just look at Lauren (from Sweet Dreams) and all her other heroines who kick butt and look beautiful and the three strands of “having it all”: a man and a family, works that satisfies, and some serious shopping and beauty therapy!

Kaleidoscope is a story of having it all once you’re ready to reach for what you want and grab on tight. Perhaps because Deck and Emme both have pretty satisfying lives already, full of work that interests them and friends and lovers to add some spice, their love affair and eventual happily-ever-after is all the more rewarding. They don’t need each other to be lifted up or out of anything: they want to be with each other because they are happier and more fulfilled when they are together. Deck and Emme earn their love by fighting, and talking honestly, and loving their way into a life far richer they never dreamed of. In Deck’s mind, it’s full circle to the day when Emme “gave him that kaleidoscope and told him to turn the dial, find more beauty.”

Learn more or order a copy of Kaleidoscope by Kristen Ashley, out now:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & Noble



Janet Webb, Blogger

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