Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dual ARC Review: Holding on Tighter by Shayla Black

Series:     Wicked Lovers #12
Pub. Date:Feb. 7, 2017
Publisher:Berkley
Length:368 pages
Source:NetGalley

Welcome readers! Both Julie and I read this book so this is going to be our first ever dual review... two for one if you will. Interestingly, we both rated the book exactly the same, and we had similar thoughts on the characters and plot. Maybe we can do more of these in the future and we might have some fun with the format - make things a little crazy and fun next time.

What Bambi thought...

The Wicked Lovers series is one that I really enjoyed when I started reading it many years ago, but somewhere I fell behind and have yet to get caught up. Luckily, Holding on Tighter was easily readable as a semi-standalone. There is character crossover from previous books in the series, but it wasn't so overwhelming that I felt completely lost.

I started off on a really good note with the heroine of this story. Jolie Quinn is an extremely driven, ambitious, independent, and hardworking woman. As an up-and-coming fashion designer, Jolie has literally dragged herself out of the trailer park to make something of her life, while helping to raise her younger brother and sister. Her mother's history of failed marriages has tainted Jolie's views on love and relationships, and she is now married to her job. Her drive, ambition and independence really resonated with me and I thought I would have a good connection to her character... but she went from admirable to bitchy quite fast and I found myself annoyed and not liking her character. I was a bit worried about the judgmental hardass aspect would turn me off the story... but in all fairness, Jolie's character does experience some personal growth and she stopped throwing that hand up so much as the story progressed. 

Heath Powell is a sexy and dominant Brit. An ex-spy with a tragic past, he has come to the States drowning his grief in no-strings-attached sex in seedy nightclubs. Being hired to evaluate security for Jolie's clothing line, Betti, Heath is getting his first experience with an Type A female personality, and is undeniably drawn to Jolie's strength of character. I liked Heath's character, despite him being a bit of a horndog picking up random chicks left and right. Once you know his story, you will understand his behavior and will probably be siding with him when Jolie's bitchy side comes out. 

The majority of this story takes place over a week or two... but something about the pacing kept it from feeling like an instalove situation. Neither Jolie not Heath was looking for a romantic entanglement, but you know what they say - love finds you when you aren't looking. The two had great chemistry and there were lots of steamy sexytime scenes to satisfy any smut lover. Personally I would have liked to sacrifice a sex scene or two to develop the suspense plot more... but I may be in the minority on that. After danger comes to Betti, Heath works to find out the motivation and culprit behind the attacks. The resolution was both (slightly) predictable and far-fetched... but that didn't detract all that much from my enjoyment. I just would have liked to see a little more action and anticipatory anxiety as I was reading.

The epilogue was a nice wrap up but I was so sad that I couldn't remember all the past couples that got in an appearance. This tells me its time to go back and re-read the series before I catch up with the later books. 

What Julie thought...

Heath is so dang yummy...Alpha, sexy, talented hands and mouth..okay enough of that, lol! I love anything British so he already had my attention with his language skills, and his demeanor? I love a guy who is confident and self assured yet also willing to go balls to the walls for a woman he loves. It takes Heath awhile to figure out he's in love, even though his every action tells you Jolie is different from the nameless faces he's been banging since his first wife's death. 

In the beginning I really didn't care for Jolie, but by the middle of the book she kind of won me over. She's a ball buster and serious control freak who made my OCD tendencies look normal..but I digress. After a difficult childhood she's shut herself off emotionally, believing it's in her best interest to be focused and grounded in reality. Jolie's living half a life, not even realizing how much she's missing out on until Heath pops up on her radar with enough raw sex appeal to set her on her toes and take notice. 

One thing I love about Shayla Black's writing is how she can weave raunchy sex scenes into emotionally charged complexities that have me holding my breath in anticipation of a character's heart stopping moment of trust. Jolie and Heath bared themselves more in those sexually charged scenes than in their daily lives. Oddly enough, it makes perfect sense for these two emotionally damaged characters to use a physical means as a way to express themselves. 

The suspense twist wasn't too bad. It provided information on Heath's past but seemed a little forced toward the end. I would have been just as happy with a straight romance plot, but the suspense did provide Heath and Jolie with the means to "bare it all" and did keep my curiosity engaged to see what would happen next. 

The characters are such a tight knit community of friends who give the shirts on their backs to someone in need and never hesitate to jump head first into trouble to save someone they care for..I'm having a hard time letting them go! 

Book 12 in the Wicked Lover series, Holding on Tighter was a reasonably balanced mix of suspense and romance, and draws on bonds of friendship established throughout the course of the series. As the final book, it also brings everybody full circle with a fun yet bittersweet ending that should satisfy long time readers of the series and entice new readers to check the series out!

We voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that we received from the publisher, Berkley.