Breaking (the) Bad

Jagged - Kristen Ashley

I am having a Maverick-Goose moment  over this book. Pour the tequila, bust out the karaoke.

And I swear, to the old gods and the new, this will be my last from this author. For reals. 

Stop laughin' I'm bein' serious and shit.

In the latest installment of The Colorado Mountain Series (and you know it's probably going to go on longer than it should now because, hot-diggity it now has an official series logo), we are going to hear about the happily ever after of Graham Reece and Zara Cinder. Graham is February Owens' old flame who got hacked by her crazy axe-wielding stalker in For YouJagged starts off before the chop-choppering with a goodbye between the vagabond Reece and his favorite FUBU with feels, Zara Cinder. Zara loves and yearns for this man but she wants the fairytale, something Graham isn't willing to give, so Zara decides to marry Greg instead. So they part ways.

Fast forward to three years after, around the time of the hacking incident which serves as the point that made these um, star-crossed lovers reconnect. Zara is now divorced and broke, Graham is the man who will rescue her from that dire circumstance by finally planting his roots in Gnaw Bone and giving Zara a job in the bar he's managing, a decent home by essentially forcing her to move in with him and a means to reconnect to the community and her family. Her fairytale.

I'm going to do away with what I liked about this book before I get to the gnarly bits. I've read all the books in this series, the Rock Chick books (except Ally's), the 'Burg series, the Mystery Men books… okay I've read a lot of Kristen Ashley's backlist. And I am glad to see she has already reined in her love of describing every little detail on the heroine's fashion choices down to the little tinkly bells on her sandals with explanation why those bells even exists. I think there was one explicit outfit litany here and that's some welcome change. And while Zara is far from perfect (see rant below), I do like that her immaturity's kept to a minimum. True that's really more of a feature of the Rock Chick heroines but I'm counting my blessings here.

Everyone's going to complain how the hero and the heroine is basically every other hero-heroine combo in the KA-verse. Yes that's true for this book as well. I don't think the author's even trying anymore, it's like there's already a pre-written KA book somewhere and she just changes the hero's name, the heroine's nickname, the drama issue (here its Zara's parental abuse and a custody battle for her dead sister's son), the quirky supporting cast (there's always the sassy friend and the intrusive town's people which is passed off as being "caring") and a bar.

Speaking of, if its an attempt at being original or quirky or cute or an attempt at anything, naming your hero after cured pork is never going to be a good idea in Contemporary Romance.

I'm sorry but I never got over Sam with an 'H'. I just lose it every time he and Zara get into a fight or have steamy sex where Zara moans, "Ham" and he groans, in that JAGGED voice of his, "Cookie." 

What is this, puppet porn?

Or better yet…

" image

Setting aside that ridiculous name (what's wrong with Reece? Seriously?) and the fact that he refuses to use proper pronouns or enunciate words endin' in g's (its a battle with autocorrect typing that by the way), it was a tad hilarious how he was described as Super Bartender whose swoony abilities include "vault over" the bar counter and pouring a drink while making change. I mean, I'm sure it's a taxing and stressful job but the way he was made out here just seemed cartoony and silly. And I get why Zara's head over heels over this guy but I have no idea why he'd fall for Zara.

The thing with making a romance book about "the other guy" from an earlier, more successful book is that no matter how you spin it, you're still fighting the successful delivery of the character at first sight, which in this case is the guy who lost Feb to Colt. And when you try to give him his HEA, there's always the burden to not make him come across like he's settling for second best. That issue was tackled better here (compared to how it was handled in Games of the Heart which was a big fail) which is great, but as its unavoidable to compare Feb and Zara, I'm sorry but silver-jewelry crazy Feb wins over the bland blonde who may or may not have some Cookie Monster fetish. I'm not a fan of the heroine who waits for a man to fix all her problems for her. And I'm certainly NOT a fan of the Xander with a Z storyline where Sara with a Z's idea of introducing herself to her unaware nephew is

by suing for, I suppose sole custody when he's being cared for quite well. 

(show spoiler)

True, it reforged some familial bonds with her aunt but that didn't make Zara and Sam with an 'H' any less dickish towards the poor woman with that move.

And while I appreciate the toning down of slut-shaming and skinny-hating, I am sad for how Greg the ex-husband was made out to be. True, it's a matter of not having the same likes and dislikes, but somehow I ended up feeling shamed that my idea of a night well spent is watching a subtitled film at home rather than getting sloshed in the bar. And I know that that wasn't what this book was trying to get across but the the lack of depth in any of the characters made it seem like we have now graduated to hermit-shaming.

This did make me laugh, though I think it wasn't meaning to make me. Obviously gone are the days when I was so taken by the way this author was able to tell heart-felt stories in a way that made me look over editing issues and annoying quirks. When you can't even bring yourself to read the Epilogue, you know it's time to call it for this relationship.

Time of death: 10:18.

She'll always have a place in my favorites shelf, but I think its time to move on. There's no use reviewing the same story over and over again.

ARC provided by Forever-GCP thru Netgalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.