Wrong for Me
Jackie Ashenden might be the only author who could persuade me to read a book about a convicted murderer who seeks revenge on the woman he loves but blames for his eight year incarceration. She has the ability to write very dark and unsettling storylines and make them palatable, optimistic and even sexy. I’ve read quite a few of her books; therefore, I trust her to tackle gritty subjects but still provide a satisfactory resolution. For this reason, I did not hesitate to pick up the second book in her Motor City Royals series – Wrong for Me. I am glad I took a leap of faith, because Ms. Ashenden did not disappoint and delivered a gut-wrenching story that was still tender and hopeful.
Levi Rush and Rachel Hamilton were best friends after meeting as teenagers at a drop-in youth center in the impoverished Royal Road neighborhood of Detroit. They were both from broken homes with disturbing childhoods and formed a bond as strong as any family’s with two other friends from the center – Zee and Gideon. These friends are the subjects for the other books in the Motor Royal series. They are stand-alone books, but you do get a nice introduction to Levi and Rachel if you start with the first book, Dirty for Me.
One night Levi accidentally kills a man while trying to protect Rachel and is sent to prison for eight years. Right before the murder, they had both realized they felt more than just friendship for each other, but neither had acknowledged or spoken of their change in feelings. When Rachel’s life was in danger, Levi did not hesitate to defend her, but his actions led to a man’s death and his conviction of manslaughter.
Levi’s prison experience has understandably changed him. He is bitterly angry, because Rachel never once visited him or contacted him while he was locked up and feels she abandoned him. (I agree that is a pretty crummy move on her part.) He doesn’t blame her for his actions but resents her for putting him in a position that created the need for them. When he is released and returns to Royal Road, he wants revenge – to hurt Rachel as she has hurt him. He believes and acts like he hates her and says some nasty things to her. He is an all-around asshole, but it is obvious that he is acting from a deeply painful place and still cares for her. I never believed he would truly harm her.
Rachel did not visit or write Levi, because she was consumed with guilt and shame over that night and its ramifications. She blames herself and has a very hard time admitting this to him. He astonishes her when he informs her that he owns the building where her tattoo parlor is located. She’s put her heart and soul into her business and feels passionately about reinvesting in her neighborhood, so she reluctantly concedes when he blackmails her into his bed by threatening to evict her. She is fiercely attracted to Levi but no one wants to be manipulated or threatened into a sexual relationship. Revenge of this nature can be distressing to some readers; therefore, anyone uncomfortable with this scenario in fiction might want to give Wrong for Me a miss.
Levi tries to hang onto his anger but starts to soften as he and Rachel become intimate and very slowly reveal their shared turmoil over the events surrounding the murder and their relationship. They both need to experience unconditional love to overcome their fears of abandonment, but they need to get out of their own way in order to do so. Guilt and anger have paralyzed them, but the seed of hope is there, and the reader cannot help but root for both of them to heal and find their happily ever after together.
The backdrop of Detroit is almost a full character in Wrong for You and provides a very interesting subtext to the story. Ms. Ashenden explores the gentrification of the Royal Road neighborhood as the middle class and wealthy begin to revitalize it, pushing out the poorer residents who have called it as home for decades. The author describes the city and the controversial changes vividly and with such detail that I was astonished to discover she lives in New Zealand. This exceptional imagery is evidence of her talent to so thoroughly submerse readers in her fictional world.
Wrong for Me isn’t for the faint of heart, but I can recommend it with the assurance that somehow Ms. Ashenden has the power to make anyone redeemable and their actions forgivable, especially characters like Levi and Rachel who have experienced unimaginable pain and difficulties.