Tuesday, August 9, 2016

ARC Review: Ruthless by Lexi Blake

Series:     Lawless #1
Pub. Date:Aug. 9, 2016
Publisher:Berkley Romance
Length:304 pages

I am a huge fan of Lexi Blake's Thieves series and have started working my way through her contemporary and romantic suspense stories. So I was excited to see a new series start so I could get in on the front end and not feel like I'm forever in catch-up mode.

It looks like the Lawless series will feature the three Lawless brothers, as their sister, Mia, was introduced in Dominance Never Dies when she was paired with Case Taggart from the MacKay Taggart security team. Case and Mia were secondary characters in this story... but I didn't feel overly "in the dark" from not having read the earlier book. The Lawless siblings were orphaned as children by a greedy corporate creeps who murdered their parents to steal their father's intellectual property. The boys endured group homes and foster homes, all the while plotting their revenge against the evildoers. Now that they are self-made men, if a little single-minded and broody, it's time to put all their plans into action.

Riley Lawless is the second-oldest sibling, in between Drew and Bran. As a teenager, he worked hard in school and earned a college scholarship. When Drew needed legal counsel for his billion dollar business, and didn't trust anyone, Riley went to Harvard Law so he could take over the legal team. So Riley is uber-dedicated to his family and is determined to pull his weight in the family business and vengeance scheme. He is also the charming brother - they send him in when a situation needs a lighter touch. In this first installment of the series, Riley's job is to finesse and seduce the daughter of one of the murders which will allow the The Plan to get underway. 

Despite Ellie Straton's wealthy family, she didn't have an easy childhood. After she lost her mother at a young age, she was often ignored by her father. The attention she did often get from her father was not kind, but she earned just what a monster he was on his deathbed. The new knowledge, his death, and her failed marriage have not been easy on Ellie. Yet she remains determined to change the company business for the better, once she overcomes the obstacle of her father's business partner. Ellie was a bit naive and somewhat meek to fit her role as a kickass corporate CEO, but I admired her determination to change the company and protect her employees.

This book really made me realize that I have double standards at times. While I have been reading this book, I have been listening to an audiobook where the heroine is a con artist and the hero is her mark. I don't like con artist heroines. However, in this book Ellie is basically Riley's mark... and I don't have the same distaste for the situation. It could be because while Riley is carrying out the vengeance plan, he really does seem to be trying to protect Ellie. Once they met, Riley was no longer objective about whether she got hurt and his protective instincts rose for her even when it required him to face down his own family. So I really liked Riley, and I liked Riley and Ellie together. She had some self-esteem issues, but Riley built her up and made her feel beautiful. 

All of the characters in this first installment were easy to connect to... I don't know who my favorite Lawless brother will be, but I suspect it might be Drew. I tend to like the broody ones. I really enjoy the corporate scheming that I think will be prevalent in the series, and I love that Lexi throws in a good twist which managed to surprise me. The intrigue and secrets really help move the story forward and Lexi throws in some sexy scenes to make us salivate. I would say that Ruthless has steam in the mid-range. It didn't rise to the level of the BDSM elements of the Masters and Mercenaries series, or the MFM relationship from the Thieves series, but it was a satisfying and steamy vanilla.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Berkley Romance via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.