Monday, August 8, 2016

ARC Review: Hard Rules by Lisa Renee Jones

Series:     Dirty Money #1
Pub. Date:Aug. 9, 2016
Publisher:St. Martin's Griffin
Length:304 pages
Source:NetGalley

This series calls to mind a modern-day Dallas with all the secrets, lies, betrayals and backstabbing that is occurring in the Brandon family. The Brandon men are all headstrong obstinate bulldozers, and the mother is sneaky and conniving. In Dirty Money, a maverick is pitted against the rest of the family to clean up the family conglomerate, Brandon Enterprises.
I drink my coffee the way I see the world. Harsh and brutal. And I drink my booze with a smooth kick, the way I try and face my adversaries.
Shane Brandon is a 32 y/o corporate attorney that attended Harvard, drives a Bentley, and wears $2,000 suits. He has returned from Manhattan to the family seat in Denver, with the goal is to replace all the dirty money in the family business with legitimate funds. This pits him against his more criminally-inclined older brother, Derek, and his father. The family business, Brandon Enterprises, is a conglomerate of various kinds of businesses... a trucking division and hedge fund among others. Shane's plan is to get out of the dirty money enterprises and take the company legit with a pharmaceutical company. So just when something fishy appears to be happening with Derek, the pharma, and the FDA, its not the time for Shane to get embroiled in a romantic relationship. Particularly when he has never bothered with relationships before. I liked Shane and I admired what he was trying to do with his family business. He definitely isn't going to have an easy road with the vipers in the Brandon family. 

Emily is an intelligent 27 y/o who appears to be on the run from... something. She is a Texas girl pretending to be a Cali girl. We don't learn much more about her than that, so I was never able to connect to her character. She ends up with Shane in a somewhat desperate one-night-stand turned sexual relationship... and then finds herself in the midst of the family drama. The book was so dialogue-driven that I really didn't get pulled into any one character. I want to know her motivations and her secrets, and I wish more of those would have been trickled out to hook us into the story.

I felt like I was missing something for most of this book. It started with the prologue, which I could not figure out how it related to the rest of the story. The prologue is told from the POV of Teresa Martina, so it seemed like she would be our heroine. But she is not and I just couldn't fit that puzzle piece in as I was reading. Then there was quite a bit of discussion about some trouble that Brandon Sr. got into with the feds, and Shane was able to help his father weasel out of trouble. But we are never told the specifics of what happened or how Shane worked his magic. Then of course the whole thing with Emily - we didn't learn enough about her to keep me interested in her character.

I'm a big fan of Lisa Renee Jones and love her Inside Out and Amy Benson series. So I am hoping the next installment of Dirty Money answers some of my questions and does a little more showing than telling. I want to experience the conflict that Shane feels when it comes to his morality vs. his love for his family. And I want to get wrapped up in the chemistry between Shane and Emily. I was missing all of that in this first book.

That being said, I really enjoyed all the corporate corruption and scheming. This first installment provides a great foundation to really delve into all that family drama... and I look forward to seeing this situation play out.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin's Griffin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 stars / 3 flames.