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Launch Day Blitz & Giveaway: Jagged: Kristen Ashley

JAGGED
Kristen Ashley

Publication Date: November 5, 2013
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Series: Colorado Mountain #5.
Graham Reece's story.

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Graham Reece was introduced  in For You from The Burg Series #1.

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An old flame rekindled . . .

Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn't interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara's lost her business, her marriage, and she's barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears about Zara's plight, he's on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.

Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time than absolutely necessary. But Ham's faced his own demons, and he's learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he's meant to live. So when he hears that Zara's having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he's a changed man.

Although this is part of the Colorado Mountain series and characters within the series do cross at times, the stories are about individual couples and  can be read as standalones. 
JAGGED EXCERPT:

When I saw who was outside, my mouth dropped open.

Luckily, the doorbell buzzing stopped.

Unluckily, the last person on earth I wanted to see was standing outside my door.

“Jesus, you don’t have a peephole?” Ham growled, looking incensed and Graham Reece looking, or worse, being incensed was a very bad thing. I’d learned that five months ago.

I didn’t have it in me to concern myself with Ham being incensed. I was more concerned with him being there at all.

To express this, I asked, “What the hell?”

“Open the fuckin’ door, Zara.”

I stared a beat, then pulled myself together.

This was not happening.

We were done.

I pushed the door closed.

The problem with this was it didn’t work, seeing as the toe of Ham’s boot was wedged between it and the jamb.

“Open the door, Zara,” he repeated.

“We’re done,” I told him through the gap in the door. “Move your foot.”

“Open the door.”

“We’re done, Ham,” I snapped.

“Right, then move back.”

“What?”

He didn’t repeat his order. He moved his foot but only so he could rear back and plant his shoulder in the door.

The chain popped right open, as did the door, and I went flying.

I righted myself as Ham, now in my apartment, slammed the door.

“You’re payin’ for that!” I yelled.

His eyes were beyond me, examining my new space as his mouth moved.

“Not a problem. I’ll reimburse what they take out of your security deposit when we move you out of this dump.”

I didn’t know what he meant and I also didn’t care.

I switched subjects.

“How did you get here so fast?” I asked, and his eyes finally came to me.

“I hope to Christ you didn’t miss local gossip because you’re spendin’ your days at Deluxe Home Store and your nights at some titty bar.”

“I’m not working at a titty bar, Ham, so you can stop concerning yourself with me and move on”—I paused—“again.” I bit off the last word then what he said penetrated and I asked, “What gossip?”

“Managing The Dog, Zara, have been for a week. I live in Gnaw Bone.”

I felt my eyes get huge as my stomach clenched.

“You’re managing The Dog?” I whispered, aghast.

“Yeah. And you just got a new job. You start after you work out your notice at Deluxe,” he returned.

“What?” This also came out quiet and horrified.

“You’re waitressin’ for me. Shit hours but, if I remember correctly and since the view hasn’t changed except to get better, with your face, tits, and ass, great tips. In the meantime, we’re movin’ you out of this shithole and, you don’t got a girl who can take you on, you’re bunkin’ with me.”

Bunking with him?

Was he high?

“I am not moving in with you,” I declared.

Life has certain things planned. I find, for some people, it takes you places you don't want to go but the path leads to where you need to be.Zara and Graham "Ham" Reece had a special connection. They were on again, off again long distance for years. They broke it of and came back together just to fight. But now Ham is back in Gnaw Bone determined to keep her safe. Zara tried to get over Ham before, but her whole life just ended up in tatters. She is alone and has lost everything, so she really does not have a choice to accept Ham's help.

As long as they have known each other, Ham has always been a rolling stone with  no roots. He moves around working at bars. But he never really wanted to lose the connection to Zara but was willing to do it for her. Ham makes no apologies for who he is. He is bossy, outspoken, protective and he has reasons for the way he is. But being almost killed apparently can make your priorities change. Ham moves back to Gnaw Bone and takes Zara back under his protective wing. Slowly we see them starting over with a new beginning.

He'd been her one. It took him years to realize she was his. 

I admit that book was a slow build up for me. I had a hard time connecting with them at first. Not sure if it was the nature of their long distance on/off again thing or the nicknames Ham, Cookie, Darlin'. But maybe a third of the way in, I really started to like them together. Ham grew on me. I enjoyed seeing Ham step up and them finding their way back. Ham was a typical KA possessive, bossy, no-nonsense alpha. he had a past that shaped his decisions. He had regrets. But he knew what he wanted and was not backing down again.

"Cookie, pay attention, I'm gonna give you everything."

Zara had her past issues bleeding into her present, but Ham was there to help her pick up the pieces. But she was likable, sweet, loving, and the whole town loved her. She was not a wimpy, sniveling heroine. She had been through so much and was just trying to keep it all together. And it was hard for her to believe that she might actually get her happiness after being beat down so long. 

"...love is a show, it's not a tell. "

There was drama. Mostly family drama, some tension, and some relationship growing pains. They did face challenges. But not as much nail biting, heart stopping, life or death drama as others in this series or other KA books. It was actually kind of funny to me as she recounted the dangerous stories of some of the previous characters to remind us,  and how over the top they almost sounded when written down that way. This one got kidnapped, that one was buried alive, that man was murdered, that one went to jail, etc. 

I liked seeing the cameos of other characters from Gnaw Bone especially Max and Nina. But also Maybelline, Wanda, Cotton, Arlene, Kami, among others. It was like returning to visit old friends. But I admit it took me a bit to warm up to Zara and Ham. We did not really know much about Graham Reece before this, just what we got in For You from the Burg Series where he was involved with February Owens and ended up a target for an ax murderer. Zara's history was slowly revealed throughout the book so we developed more of an understanding of what she had been through as the book went on.

"We got a shift to get through, baby, moving us to somethin' we've never had. You promise to hold on to me, I'll promise to hold on to you and we'll make it through."

They did have chemistry and that usual "KA tough man, tough chick finding their way together vibe." It was a sweet, second chance love story. But it just did not have all of the intense drama and emotional impact as some others. But I still liked it. The plot was interesting. I enjoyed the stories going on within it. I was satisfied. But it is not my fave of the series. It is hard to top Tate and Ty. I have read Sweet Dreams and Lady Luck several times. This one will leave me with a fond memory of the characters and story, but it might be awhile until I feel the need to reread it. But it was still a good book.  I just think sometimes that I place high expectations on every Kristen Ashley book since some of hers are my favorite comfy reads that I can reread, so it is hard to settle for good when I am used to loving them. The next in this series will be Kaleidoscope about Jacob Decker.

Thanks to Kristen Ashley and Grand Central Publishing/Forever for providing me with an arc in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are from arc copy and subject to change in final draft. 

Kristen Ashley 

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Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake.

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. 

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

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