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Exclusive Excerpt and Reviews: Dare To Run: Jen McLaughlin

dare to run comps_final.inddDare to Run 
Jen McLaughlin

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Expected February 2, 2016

The New York times bestselling author of the Out of Line Novels takes readers to Boston where one gang of criminals knows how being bad can be so good… 

She knows what he’s like on Boston’s mean streets. Now she’s going to find out if he’s got some heart.

Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble.

Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one
Excerpt 4 DARE TO RUN
“You okay?” he asked, his green eyes skimming over me. The lights in the bar made his hair seem redder, and his arms flexed as he stopped directly in front of me.
Shaking off the warmth coiling through my veins, I rested my hands on the bar and leaned across it. “Yeah, I’m fine, Lucky. But we have company, and they’re—”
“I told you not to call me that,” he growled.
Then, without a warning, he curled his hand behind my neck and hauled me farther over the bar. Before I could so much as blink, his lips were on mine. He kept the kiss gentle, so it didn’t hurt. Despite the fact that he was hot, and I’d been attracted to him since day one, the way he kissed me was so impersonal that it did . . . nothing.
Nothing at all.
His generous lips were hard under mine, and he didn’t so much as move his lips softly over mine even once. They were just there, pressed against mine, and then they weren’t. He pulled back slightly but didn’t let go of me. “I know they’re here, watching. That’s why I kissed you. They needed to see it before I went over to them.”
I blinked. “I don’t mean to insult your game or any- thing, but that wasn’t a kiss. I don’t know what it was, but I definitely wouldn’t classify that as a kiss.”
Instead of looking wounded or injured at my insult to his moves, he appeared amused. His green eyes danced, and the smirk I’d come to know so well slid into place. “It wasn’t supposed to be one. Not really. Run your hand down my back.”
He swept his thumb over my jawline, still holding on to me. From a distance, it might look tender and loving, but I knew it for what it really was.
A claiming, intended for those jerks in the corner.
I skimmed my hand down his muscular back. The feeling of his body beneath it affected me much more than that shadow of a kiss had. Not one to follow directions blindly, I slipped my hand down the curve of his ass, cupping it tight. Digging my nails into his jeans, I stared right back at him, not backing down. “How’s this? Good enough of a show for you? Why not just write ‘Taken’ on my forehead for all to see? Or better yet, bend me over the bar and fuck me from behind. Then they’ll really see I’m yours.”
He hissed through his teeth and gripped my chin, holding me still. “Easy, sweetheart. Keep tempting me with that saucy little mouth of yours, and I’ll bite. Hard. I don’t think you want to go down that road with me just yet.”
“Is that a dare?” I smiled at him. “I never could back down from a dare, you know.”
“Good to know.” He leaned close, his lips a breath from mine, and despite myself, my stomach tightened in anticipation. Instinctively, I knew that if he kissed me again, it wouldn’t be the mockery of a kiss that he’d given me earlier. “But I told you that I’d make you admit you wanted me before I touched you again, and I meant it. Are you ready to admit you want me now?”
Lucas Donahue is fresh out of prison and back doing business with his longtime gang the Sons of Steel Row, but is finding he has a target on his back. Someone is out to get him and it is probably someone close to him. Seems like his only choices are to kill his enemy, go back to jail, or run. But no one really runs from a gang and lives to tell about it.

Heidi Greene is the bar owner across the street. She finds herself flirting with the bad-boy Lucas one night and saved by him the next. She had no idea how her life was about to change. Now she is supposed to pretend that the dangerous gang member is her boyfriend and she's under his protection. But she's feisty, opinionated, and fiercely independent. She does not like being bossed around or following orders.  She resists as best she can. 

Sparks are flying, sexual tension is high, and it is a battle of wills. He's got walls up and he is not going to get close to anyone or trust them easily...but he can't seem to keep his guard in place fully around her. He is ruthless and cold with everyone else, but somehow she can pull out a protective, caring side out of him that no one else can. He might not be Prince Charming, but to her he is like a Dark Prince and survivor. The survivor in her can appreciate that.

When things go to hell and danger is imminent, they are at a crossroads and only one has a chance to really run. But will one take the money and escape plan and start a new life, or will they fight and possibly go down together?

This was tension-filled, action-packed, suspenseful, hot, and totally kept me intrigued. I kept trying to figure out any way this situation could have a fair resolution. I was frantically putting together theories and will admit I was right about one twist (though I second guessed myself a couple of times), but some others took me by total surprise. There were too many threats and variables and no one and nowhere was safe. The world was constantly shifting and changing around them. It's kill or be killed...fight or flight...but in his world it was hard to hide and running could get them killed too.

At times they were stubbornly trying to save each other in a situation with no apparent escape. And it was stressful waiting to see when the next attack would come. The side characters were just as charismatic, dangerous, and deadly as Lucas was...Their leader Tate, Lucas's younger brother Scotty, and his friend Chris all were part of the life and part of the reason why Lucas was bound to it. The world they lived in was not easy, pretty, safe, or constant. 

It was told in dual points of view allowing us to understand their fears and motivations. I really liked both Lucas and Heidi. He tried so hard to be an aloof, uncaring ass, and push her away. But I loved seeing his hidden vulnerabilities and craving for a real connection. Heidi was tenacious and outspoken. She was not afraid to talk back, ignore his requests, or push him back. They really challenged each other and forced the other out of their comfort zones. Their rapport was feisty and their chemistry burning hot. I loved their banter, fights for control, and power exchanges. 

This was an exciting romantic suspense read set in gang related Boston surrounded by threats, murder, and mayhem. It was intense, gritty, violent, passionate, nerve wracking, and full of twists. This was an intriguing start to this Sons of Steel Row series.

ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
Heidi Green finally has a place she calls home. It might be a run down bar in a crummy part of town, but it’s hers and it’s all the history she wants to remember. As she prepares to send her friend and the closest thing she has to a little brother away to college, she never imagines she will find herself in the middle of a street war, or the start of one.

Lucas Donahue looks out for himself. He joined the Sons of Steel Row as a teenager in order to keep a roof over his head and food in his little brother’s stomach. Having worked his way up the ranks, doing time, and proving his loyalty time and again, he is rumored to be getting a promotion and threats on his life. When he steps in to stop a rival gang from raping the feisty bartender across the street, he paints the same target he wears on her back as well.

Heidi has a backbone. Her experiences lend her confidence in everyday situations, and the backbone to stand up to stressor far beyond typical occurrences. She has a way of doing what she thinks best that at times brought a smile to my face and at others made me shake my head at her. But at her heart was protecting herself and Lucas, and getting them both out of the situation alive.

Lucas was an interesting character in that he never saw himself as anything but selfish. Watching him take care of Heidi, look out for his friends, and share his history, he reveals pieces of himself that he had never noticed.

These two had to grow on me. I had a hard time at first settling with the manner in which they are thrown together. But as the story progressed and they began speaking more than the one or two sentence confrontations that had been happening inside the bar, I began to like them together. Neither was willing to be the vulnerable one, especially with the added stress they were dealing with, which after a time began to get on my nerves. But it fit with their personalities that neither would want to be seen as “weak.”

I was not expecting the twist at the end, so it came as an utter shock. But I loved what it said about the characters as much as it hurt to find the truth. As the first in the series, other characters could make for interesting continuations: Chris, Scott, even Tate, though we saw the least of the Sons of Steel Row leader (and frankly, his romantic status is never addressed). 

ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
 
JenM
Jen McLaughlin
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Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy New Adult books. Under her pen name Diane Alberts, she is a multi-published, bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, released September 6 2013, and hit the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and a cat. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

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