Review: Hard Night by Jackie Ashenden

hard nightTitle: Hard Night

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: Out today! The author very kindly sent me a copy to read and review

The heroine: 11th Hour executive Faith Beasley

The hero: 11th Hour owner Jacob Night

The blurb: Made up of former soldiers, the men of the 11th Hour play by their own rules to protect the innocent, capture the guilty, and stay in fighting shape for whatever–and whoever–comes their way . . .

Jacob Night, ex-Black Ops, owner of a billion-dollar security company, and leader of the 11th Hour, spends his life completing dangerous missions for others. But there’s one personal mission he has yet to complete: Finding his missing brother, who was betrayed by the woman he should have been able to trust. But when he finally tracks down his brother’s ex, there’s one surprise: she can’t remember a thing.

Faith has no memory of who she is. She can’t remember life before she came to work for Jacob Night, and she’s not sure she wants to. But when she and Jacob are ambushed by men who have come to kill her for sins she can’t recall committing, she has no choice but to face the past. Yet once she does, and Jacob’s identity–and her own–come to light, they may not survive with their lives intact, let alone their hearts.

Standalone or series: This is the third book in the 11th Hour series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: This is the third and final book in the 11th Hour series, which I’m sad about because I have enjoyed this series very much. For me, this one was the best of them all. We’ve met Jacob Night before; he’s the elusive owner of the 11th Hour. The only people who have seen him in the flesh up to now is Kellan Blake, very briefly, and Faith Beasley. Faith is Jacob’s right hand, running the business on his command.

Faith is a mystery herself; six months previously, she ended up in hospital with no memory of who she was or what had happened. Jacob turned up to claim her as his cousin and whisked her to his house, where she has lived and worked with him ever since. What she doesn’t know is why – Jacob is looking for his missing brother, and intel has it that Faith was his lover. Believing her to be his best lead, Jacob has her under his protection because someone is out to kill her and he’s waiting for her memory to return so she can lead him to his brother.

He eventually finds out who she is and what she’s done, and when Faith learns the truth she is torn. Torn between knowing the truth about who she really is and fighting the feelings she’s had for Jacob since she met him, together they embark on a journey to find his missing brother and learn whether the attraction they feel for each other is real or just another illusion.

With two leads who are both hiding their true selves underneath the personas presented to the world, undeniable sparks that fly whenever they’re together, and hot, passionate sex they can’t stop having, this book will tick every single one of your romance loving heart’s boxes. Don’t miss this book, or this series.

Review: Raw Power by Jackie Ashenden

raw powerTitle: Raw Power

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: 2018

The heroine: Socialite/musician Callie Hawthorne

The hero: Ex-marine Jack King

The blurb: They fought for their country. Now they fight for you.

To find the people lost in the shadows, you need the men who live in them. The former soldiers of 11th Hour are unaffiliated, unacknowledged, and definitely illegal. They protect the innocent, destroy the guilty–and capture hearts along the way . . .

Rugged, skilled, and hard-bodied, Jack King’s whole life was the Marines until an injury left him discharged from active duty. But he finds a new purpose when he’s recruited by a special unit that employs ex-military to do very special jobs. Yet he’s not impressed when his first assignment is babysitting the pretty, perfect daughter of a politician–especially when she’s far from the angel she appears to be . . .

Callie Hawthorne hates politics, and she hates playing the part of a senator’s goody two shoes daughter even more. It only gets worse when her father decides she needs a security detail 24/7–and the bodyguard happens to be the most insanely hot guy Callie’s ever seen. Still, she’s not going to be ordered around just because of some half-assed threat to her father. . . . But when it turns out her dad’s no angel either, Jack has to kidnap Callie in order to protect her. And as danger closes in, he’ll need all his considerable talents to keep them both alive. The greater challenge will be to keep his hands off her . . .

Standalone or series: Book one in the 11th Hour trilogy, but can be read as a standalone

The review: When I was talking with the author about this book, she amusingly – and accurately – referred to Jack King as a grumpy dude. But our hero has a lot to be grumpy about; scarred from a traumatic childhood and witness to a horrific incident he couldn’t have stopped, he found his path with the Marines. Leading a team into a hostage situation, he’s advised it may be a trap. But Jack in unable to be patient when he hears the cries of innocent children, so he gives the order to go in… and ends up being the only one left alive after the intel about the trap unfortunately proves to be correct.

Horribly scarred down the entire left side of his body, he is deemed medically unfit and discharged. Lost without the only thing in his life that made sense and gave him purpose, Jack drinks his sorrows away before he’s approached by a woman named Faith Beasley, offering him a job with a private military unit called The 11th Hour. Owned and run by the elusive and mysterious Jacob Night, Jack’s curiosity gets the better of him and he goes to the HQ in San Diego to learn more.

When he learns his first assignment, an interview of sorts, is to be bodyguard to the daughter of a Boston senator whose family is getting death threats, he baulks. But when he’s told he either takes the assignment or leaves, he flies to Boston. Callie Hawthorne is, at twenty-two, almost a decade younger than Jack, and the last thing he wants is to be babysitting a spoilt princess. But when he finally tracks Callie down, he finds her at a nightclub, dancing. Music is the only freedom Callie has in her life, and more time Jack spends around Callie, the more he realises she’s terribly afraid of something. After an amateur assassination attempt on Callie’s life, the discovery of hidden cameras in Callie’s apartment that her father secretly wants put back in, and Jack witnessing a confrontation between Callie and her father, he realises what it is that Callie is so afraid of: Senator Hawthorne.

So he spirits Callie away from Boston without warning back to San Diego, against the orders of his new employer, and her father is furious. But Jack is adamant he is not allowing Callie to go back to the senator, and Callie fears this is her one chance to finally get out from under her father’s thumb. Callie has never known kindness or affection in her life; her father wanted an heir and, after Callie’s complicated birth, her mother couldn’t have any more children. Her parents blame Callie for that, and she is nothing more than a trophy to be paraded in public.

Callie is intrigued by Jack. She knows he has secrets. She’s attracted to the darkness inside him, because she understands what it’s like to have nobody on your side. For his part, Jack finds Callie brings out his protective instinct, and wakes up a side of him that’s been dormant for a very long time.

The senator raises hell, determined to get back the daughter he believes is his property. It isn’t long before Night digs up the dirt on Callie’s father, and the team is called into action to protect her. When he tracks her down anyway, Callie musters up her courage and defies his order to come home, having made the decision that her place is by Jack’s side.

This was a raw, gritty, sometimes dark romance, and it worked well for a character like Jack. Callie balanced out the darkness with some light, and her courage and determination not to let her father dominate her life forever made her an interesting, well-written heroine. I adore this series.

Review: Total Control by Jackie Ashenden

total controlTitle: Total Control

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: 2018

The heroine: Computer genius/coder Sabrina Leighton

The hero: Helicopter pilot Kellan Blake

The blurb: Helicopter pilot Kellan Blake has always hated being told what to do, so being discharged from the army for insubordination doesn’t come as much of a surprise. What does surprise him is that when he joins up with the elite, underground 11th Hour squad instead, they send him straight home. The nest of vipers that calls itself his family is the next target for the team’s tech unit, so he’ll either have to brave their traps and deceptions himself—or watch his sweet, shy friend Sabrina walk into them alone . . .

Sabrina’s no femme fatale, but since there’s no one else with the tech skills to get the info they need, she’ll put on a party dress and take one for the team. But whoever decided she should pretend to be Kellan’s new fiancée hit a little too close to home. How can she concentrate on a dangerous mission when she’s worried about giving away what she really feels for her loyal, passionate, smoking hot partner? At least she isn’t likely to blow their cover. Until she’s in the line of fire, and neither Kellan’s demons nor his heart are hers to tame . . .

Standalone or series: Book two in the 11th Hour series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: I have book one in this series and was going to read them in order, but the lure of a best friends to lovers book by Jackie was too much to resist… and I’m glad I caved.

Kellan Blake and Sabrina Leighton work for 11th Hour, a privately run underground organisation that does missions just this side of legal for its elusive owner, Jacob Night. When Kellan is instructed to investigate reports that his ex-General father, Philip, is selling guns to cartels, Kellan baulks. The information must be false because there’s no way his father – a war hero – could be doing something that’s getting innocent people. But Kellan is given an ultimatum by Jacob Night – either prove his father innocent or someone else in the team will do it.

Not only is having to investigate his father bad enough, but Kellan is also told to take Sabrina with him. As a coding expert, she’s the best person to find incriminating evidence on Philip’s personal computer because it will no doubt be encrypted. Kellan and Sabrina, whom he calls Bree, have been best friends since they were ten. Sabrina’s father was the gardener at the Blake residence, a job he got after Sabrina’s mother and two brothers died in a car accident, but her father couldn’t cope and took off, leaving Sabrina in the care of the Blakes. They took her in and gave her shelter, but Charlotte Blake always did a good job of reminding Sabrina quietly that she wasn’t really part of the family.

Having lost everyone she ever loved, Sabrina will never take the risk of telling Kellan the truth of how she feels about him – she’s been in love with him for years. So when it’s suggested they use a cover story of being engaged to explain the sudden visit to Kellan’s parents, Sabrina is uneasy at the notion. But since they have to move quickly and nothing better is suggested, that’s what they go with.

What follows is the revelation of secrets. Everyone has them – Kellan, Sabrina, Charlotte and Philip. Kellan won’t stop until he finds out the truth about whether his father is gun running or not; Sabrina is determined Kellan will never discover the secret she knows about his father, and the elder Blakes have been hiding secrets of their own. Kellan and Sabrina follow the clues and when Sabrina’s feelings finally come out, Kellan is forced to examine his own and see the truth that’s been buried for a long time.

I found both protagonists a little frustrating at times and wanted to shake them both – Kellan more so than Sabrina. He’s has this beautiful, loyal woman who’s stuck with him through everything and he doesn’t really see her as a woman, see how amazing she is. I wanted to smack him upside the head!

The sex scenes. Oh, boy. They were so hot I’m surprised my book didn’t turn into ash in my hands! Definitely some of the best I’ve ever read. If you love best friends to lovers books, you’ve got to read this one.

 

 

 

Review: Make It Hurt by Jackie Ashenden

make it hurtTitle: Make It Hurt

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Year of publication: 2016

The heroine: Bounty hunter Nora Sutcliffe

The hero: Biker Smith (Tucker Smith Jr)

The blurb: Nora Sutcliffe enjoys having tough guys at her mercy—preferably in handcuffs. The best fugitive recovery agent in the business, Nora always gets her man. But when her latest pursuit leads her to a notorious biker hangout, she’s reunited with “Smith”: the one man who was too hot for Nora to handle. Once upon a time, she was a rich girl and he was a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Now she needs his help, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Eight years ago, Smith let a pretty little Texas debutante break his heart. He picked up the pieces, went to hell and back with the army, then rode out of the darkness with a gang of outlaws at his back. The last thing he needs is a blast from the past like Nora, who has reinvented herself as a gun-toting badass with the stones to challenge him in front of the whole club. But if she thinks Smith will give up one of his brothers for a single night of pleasure, she’s in for a rude awakening.

Standalone or series: Book two of the Texas Bounty series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: I think I’ve mentioned before that bikers and motorcycle clubs are not my favourite kind of genre of romance book, but Jackie Ashenden might just make me change my mind.

Eight years ago, eighteen-year-old Nora fell in love with a young man named Smith, who was a member of a construction crew working on her home. Her parents are rich, and despite knowing the risks, she seduces him until he can no longer resist her and she gives him her virginity. Eventually Daddy catches them and hauls Smith up in front of his boss, claiming Smith seduced and raped Nora. Smith expects Nora to tell the truth, but she doesn’t, and Smith is forced to leave town after nobody will hire him, his reputation shattered.

Eight years later, Smith is the president of the Graveyard Ministry motorcycle club. Nora blows into the bar they hang out in one day looking for his vice president, who has a warrant out for his arrest. It seems Nora has gone from sweet debutante to bounty hunter, and Smith can’t help but find the transformation hot. He eventually agrees to hand over his VP – if Nora agrees to spend the night with him.

Nora doesn’t want to let Duchess, who took a chance on her after her father threw her out of the house for failing to marry a business associate at nineteen, down by failing to bring her bounty in so she agrees – not just because she wants the VP, but because she can’t resist Smith. So they spend the night together, and then he wants another night. And another. Pretty soon they’re involved, although neither will admit it’s more than sex. The desire for revenge for letting him take the fall fades as Smith realises he never got over Nora, but he has no intention of handing his VP over.

The situation resolves itself when the VP turns himself in (it was over a custody battle for his child) and Nora moves in with Smith, in the house they designed together when they were younger and he built later. She agrees to become his old lady, and they get their happily ever after. I loved Smith, loved that he let Nora see his vulnerability. I also loved that Nora’s determination to make something of herself after her father kicked her out. I look forward to reading more in this series.

Review: Ruined by Jackie Ashenden

ruinedTitle: Ruined

Author: Jackie Ashenden

Mills & Boon imprint: Dare

Year of publication: 2018

The heroine: Cat Livingston

The hero: Biker Dane Kingsolver

The blurb: Dane “Smoke” Kingsolver and Cat Livingston need to fake a relationship to get her abusive ex off her back. Convincing people their friendship has heated up to scorching levels is unexpectedly easy! But when their red-hot chemistry threatens to ruin everything they’ve ever known can they go back to what they had before? And do they even want to?

Standalone or series: Book one in The Knights of Ruin series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: Wow, this book was hot on every level it could have been. Cat and Dane have been best friends for decades, ever since they met when they were children. Of course, this book had me at ‘best friends’ since best friends to lovers is my favourite plot, hands down. Dane has loved her for years, but doesn’t think she feels that way about him so he’s bottled it for the sake of their friendship.

Cat has a six year old daughter, Annie, who loves Dane. Annie’s father is Cat’s douchebag ex, Justin, and she left him when he smacked her around one too many times. She works two jobs to support her daughter and lives in a crappy apartment. Justin is a lawyer and the chief of police’s son, so when he threatens to go for custody of Annie, Cat turns to Dane, or Smoke, as he’s referred to for most of this book (side note – motorcycle clubs are not my favourite trope, least of all because they all have club names which make me roll my eyes) for help. Cat knows Justin doesn’t actually want Annie, but is only doing it to hurt her. So she asks her best friend for help.

Dane thinks the only way he can protect Cat and Annie is to have them under the protection of The Knights of Ruin, the MC club he’s a member of. His uncle, Keep, is the president. The only way they’ll protect the girls, however, is if they are part of the club, too – and the only way they can be is if Dane declares Cat to be his old lady to the club.

Cat doesn’t take much persuading, because she’s been hot for Dane for years but didn’t think he thought of her like that, so she, too, has been hiding her feelings. When Dane suggests the plan, she says sex is off the table, but as soon as he tells the club they’re together, he drags her into a corner and tells her to get down on her knees. Cat is helpless to resist and gives in to the lust and fire burning between them, and once it happens Dane refuses to pretend anymore. He wants Cat to be his old lady for real, and she’s going to be because he won’t take no for an answer.

They indulge in some seriously hot sex and Cat realises she’s been in love with him all along, but is scared. Scared of losing him as a friend, scared of letting him in because he could ruin her. He shares her fears, but he wants a family. He wants to be Annie’s father. So when Justin turns up at the unit and starts manhandling Cat, Dane beats the crap out of him.

Thinking he’ll be facing jail time, he leaves Cat, even though he promised he never would. She’s heartbroken at the idea of living without him, and it’s only when Keep tells him what a complete idiot he’s being that he acknowledges it and goes back to the best thing that ever happened to him. I devoured this book. Read it. You won’t be sorry.