Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley

Why I read it:  Continuing my glom. I bought the whole series and also the first 4 Rock Chick books.  KA addiction, I have you.  I started with this one because Kati D told me that Tate was a bit like Tack (ie yummy).  I still like Tack better but Tate was pretty special.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  Lauren Grahame has spent her whole life thinking something special was going to happen. She didn’t know what it was, she just knew it would one day be hers. But she learned the hard way that special wasn’t on offer.

So, after divorcing her cheating husband, Lauren searched for nothing special and she thought she found it when she landed a job as a waitress in a biker bar in Carnal. It was perfect: a nothing job in a nowhere bar in Nowheresville.

Then Tatum Jackson walked in. Part-owner of the bar, he took one look at high-class Lauren and wanted nothing to do with her. And he made this known, loudly.

Tate’s angry insults seared in her brain, Lauren decides the feeling is mutual and she doesn’t want anything to do with the gloriously handsome Tate Jackson. The clash of the bartender and barmaid begins but, even though Tate makes his change of mind clear (in biker-speak, a language Lauren is not fluent in), Lauren is intent on going her own way.

Until a serial killer hits Carnal and Lauren finds out Tate isn’t a bartender, he’s a bounty hunter. He stakes his claim for Lauren before he goes on the hunt for a killer but Laurie doesn’t speak biker nor does she understand bounty hunters and Tate comes back from the hunt to find his old lady has moved on.

Life throws curveball after curveball at Laurie and Tate. As secrets are revealed, women are brutally murdered, and Lauren tries to find her inner biker babe.

What worked for me (and what didn't): There are some unusual things about this book if you compare it to what's around the place generally in Romancelandia.  Firstly, both the hero and heroine are in their forties.  Next, Lauren, when she first arrives in Carnal, is a bit overweight and almost the first thing Tate (our hero don't forget) says about her (which she overhears) is that she's "fat, old and sorry-ass".  And she kind of is.  Lauren has been driving around for months, trying to find a place to settle after being betrayed by her husband and all of her friends (he was cheating, they all knew it and no-one said anything to her).  While Lauren is close to her sister and parents, she has been distant from them for the past few months while she's been trying to get her head together. She's looking for a place where she can just be but she's not expecting anything special in her life.  Tate's comment (which he later does apologise for, fully realising he was out of line - although he gets impatient that she doesn't forgive him immediately upon apology - something I had quite a bit of sympathy for by the way) spurs Lauren into taking a bit better care of herself.  She doesn't get a makeover to try and attract a man, but rather she realises that she's let herself go a bit and she decides, almost by osmosis, to start looking after herself.  She doesn't ever do it for anyone other than herself.  This is very good.  And, it has to be said, that even upon arrival, when she wasn't at her best, the townsfolk thought she'd be exactly Tate's type - I got the impression that Tate was happy enough with the way she looked all the time, notwithstanding his out of line early comment (which was actually not much to do with Lauren at all).

Once again, there are strong friendships in the book, from people who don't necessarily get their own stories.  What is perhaps different here is that the friendships are with men as well as women and the relationships are all fairly close by the end of the book.

Tate is surprised (and not in a good way) at the way Lauren's ex-husband treated her during their marriage.  I think Tate thought Brad's man card should be revoked.  Lauren has always been an insomniac - Tate's response is very different to Brad's.
“Your man, he didn’t help you sleep?” Tate asked and I drew in breath.
This wasn’t any of his business, none at all.
Still, I answered, “I’m not sure he could do much about it. It kind of…” I paused then finished, “annoyed him so in the end if I knew I was going to have a rough night, I’d move to the guest bedroom.”
“He let you do that?”
“Let?” I was confused. “He asked me to.”
“He asked you to leave the bed he shared with you,” Tate stated like Brad asking me to move to another bed so he could get a good night’s sleep was like asking me to give up our life, pack a few belongings in a big bandana, tie it to a stick and become hobos.
Tate is a bounty hunter and there is a serial killer on the loose so he needs to take off and "focus". When he leaves, he makes a fairly ambiguous statement to Lauren about her place in his life - which both myself and Lauren didn't understand, even though Tate thought he was crystal clear.    There is a kind of love triangle-ish thing for a while, because Wood, an ex-close friend of Tate's is also interested in Lauren and while Tate is away, he and Lauren start to get close.    Tate is, shall we say, fairly upset by this turn of events but when a family trauma calls Lauren home, Tate is right there with her, proving once again that he is, in no way, anything like Brad.

As it turns out, Brad has turned up at the hospital where Lauren's dad is in the ICU and Tate takes him down a peg or two.  It was a beautiful sight.
Brad started toward me but stopped abruptly. He stopped abruptly because Tate moved in between him and me and planted a hand in Brad’s chest. 
“That’s about as close as I want you to her,” Tate said low.
Brad took a step back and glared at Tate. “I get that you’re a big guy but I’d like to talk to my wife.” 
“Then you shouldn’t have thrown her away when she was your wife. Now she ain’t. Now she’s somethin’ to me and I don’t let men I don’t like get close to her and I gotta tell you, man, I do not like you.”
It is around this time also, that Tate understands that Lauren didn't quite get what he meant when he told her she was "on the back of his bike" and he puts things a little more plainly.  Overwhelmed by all that is Tate and touched by his kindness and care of her, she forgives him and things between them move to the next level.  Still, Lauren doesn't realise quite how stuck on her Tate is.
“You’re staying?” I whispered. 
He dropped his bearded chin to my shoulder and his arms wrapped around my belly. “Baby, you just came three times,” he said softly, his mouth close to my ear. “You think I’m flyin’ across four states when you’re topped up and tonight I get a chance to play?” 
I felt my knees wobble. 
“Tate,” I breathed. 
“And your ex is a fuckwad and until I know he’s on a fuckin’ plane on his way back to suburbia, I ain’t goin’ anywhere.” 
Tate is very alpha protector.  He can be a dick occasionally - he gets angry and says "shit he doesn't mean" and he pretty much says that, while he will try to do better, she's just gotta get used to it and learn to deal.  Sometimes I found Lauren forgiving him a bit too easily for things and sometimes she had a tendency to blame herself for things which I personally thought were Tate's fault.  Which goes to prove that I'm not Lauren I guess.   Still, Tate's good qualities more than outweighed his occasionally douchebaggery and he ended up being one of my favourite Ashley heroes so far.
“We were talking,” Brad declared. 
“Bud, a woman’s strugglin’ in your arms and shouting ‘fuck you’, that ain’t talkin’,” Tate educated.
 Tate is also a pretty funny guy.
“Whose SUV is this?” I asked once we were out of Carnal. 

“Mine,” he answered. I looked at him. 

“You drive a Harley.” 
“Not big on puttin’ bad guys on the back of my bike when I hunt them down, Ace. Fucks with my street cred.”
And he's not terribly materialistic.
“I ain’t a grape Kool-Aid type of guy either,” he answered. 
“That’s funny?” I asked. 
“But you want it, you shouldn’t stop yourself from havin’ it just because I ain’t.” 
“Okay,” I said softly. 
“You spill it on my couch, babe, just sayin’…” he stopped. 
His neck bent and his face got close to mine. “I really don’t give a fuck. My couch is shit.”
Tate does keep a fairly massive secret from Lauren and this was where I thought that Lauren was too quick to accept his apology and blame herself for being insensitive instead of placing the responsibility mostly on Tate (which is where I thought it belonged).    I did understand his reasons but it was unfair for him to let Lauren get blindsided like that.  YMMV.
God, if he wasn’t so handsome, strong, sometimes sweet, didn’t have a Harley, that beard, a tendency to play with my hair, didn’t look so good in jeans and wasn’t so danged good in bed, he would seriously not be worth it. 
Of course he was, or had, all those things. Therefore unfortunately he was worth it.
What else?  I enjoyed (once again) the community in the book and the various side characters.  There were a couple of things I felt were left unexplored, but they weren't that big a deal.  For example, Lauren is 42, children aren't necessarily out of the question but there wasn't any discussion of them.

I do like a rescue theme - so I don't get tired of a hero swooping in to rescue the heroine and I don't get tired of a heroine rescuing the hero either (even if it is often in a different way). And, while I like all sorts of heroes, the alpha protector type holds a special place for me.  I've been finding that when I finish an Ashley book, I'm just not ready to leave the kind of world and characters she creates - so I've been opening up another one straight away.  Even though there are some similarities (there are differences but there's no getting over the similarities), I'm not getting sick of it.  Not even a little bit.  So the heroine is usually kidnapped or attacked somehow, the hero's body shakes to indicate laughter and there is a lot of the heroine shoving her face into the hero's neck (or him putting her face there).  But these things are things which either don't bother me or actively attract me in some way.  Again, YMMV. 

I adored Tate and I loved Lauren, her family and the family/friends they shared in Carnal and I think this one will be a re-read at some point, right along with Motorcycle Man.

I'm going to finish this series and then try and read something else for a bit but I can tell it's going to be hard to pull myself away.

Grade:  B+/A-


Jane said...

one of the things I thought that was so interesting in this book was that Tate never blamed Lauren for not understanding his cryptic message. When she got cozy with Wood, that was all on Wood and not Lauren. Fascinating. Lady Luck up next?

Kaetrin said...

@Jane - yes, I'm reading Lady Luck now :)

Review books are looking daggers at me though so I'd best get to some of them soon...