own_the_wind Have you read Kristen Ashley? Have you even heard of Kristen Ashley? As the romance world has been buzzing on about other authors, Kristen has been in the background furiously writing book after book and self-publishing them on Smashwords. A search of her name will bring up multiple review sites where she has thousands of comments and reviews and her work has been widely described in the online romance community as “cracktastic” and “crackalicious” – yet, if you ask around offline you’ll find that your acquaintances have never heard of her. This has been going on for years, but may finally change now Kristen has been picked up by Grand Central Publishing. The highly anticipated (by her fans) first book from that pairing, Own the Wind-Book One of the Chaos series, was released Monday night.

The reason for the low name-recognition outside the online romance community may be in due in part to the fact that the author is somewhat of an enigma. One would think that with, by my count, thirty-seven works in her backlist, there would be a bibliography published somewhere with titles and release dates. For purposes of this blog, I looked everywhere and couldn’t find one. It is also almost impossible to ascertain when her first book was released. I believe it was Rock Chick in December 2008, but if you look online it also says that book was published in 2011 and in 2013. If you go by publication date the data says that in 2011 Kristen published seventeen books – seventeen! The best information I could find was a list on the author’s website which gives the best order in which to read her books to get the whole “Kristen Ashley experience”.

Also, not everyone enjoys her books. I asked for a quick show of hands online to find out who I know that had read her books and I received only three ayes, one of which included a included a “dnf”. There is a definite love/hate feel to her book reviews. For every 4.5 star average on a site like Goodreads, there are a huge number of 4 and 5 star reviews but also some 0-1 star reviews with few falling between. Most of the negative reviews cite two issues, one being writing issues of grammar and sentence construction, the other being the fact that her heroes can be real dicks. The first problem I understand is going to be resolved as her books are going to be cleaned up, edited and republished, some in paperback. If you find you can’t finish a book in which the author writes things like “full proof” for foolproof or “a quarter passed five” when relating the time, maybe you’ll be able to give her books another try when this occurs. The second, well, if arrogant heroes aren’t your bag, this will never be resolved.

What kind of books does she write in which its OK for the heroes to be dicks? The answer is a complex mixture of humorous, thrilling, and erotic books with lots of action that still manage to be tender and wildly romantic in places. Her books tend to be huge, several with 500 pages or more, and surprising in the attention to detail. Even the smallest conflicts are resolved before the end, and they often have excellent epilogues. The love scenes are hot and inventive, and the heroes always demanding and bossy in bed. All genres but historical are represented, with the bulk being contemporary romance. If you like fantasy, the Fantasyland series is a favorite, in which the heroines travel to a parallel universe. Golden Dynasty is the best of that lot, but watch out, it’s brutal as well as beguiling, with a rape scene at the beginning (not in too much detail). If you like crime drama, the Colorado Mountain series has a serial killer, more mundane murders and a kidnapping, with a man wrongfully accused and sent to prison. Lady Luck is the best book from that series, and one of the best romances I’ve ever read. I won’t go into all that happens in the Rock Chick series, but someone is constantly car bombed, shot at, kidnapped and then rescued by their gorgeous, uber-masculine, and yes, arrogant hero.

One good example of such arrogance is Kane “Tack” Allen from Motorcycle Man, the president of the Chaos Motorcycle Club (and incidentally the father of the heroine in Own the Wind). The heroine, Tyra, attends a club party the weekend before beginning her new job as Tack’s business manager. At the party she meets Tack, falls madly, completely in love and ends up in bed with him. After he’s done with her, he kicks her to the curb and tells her to leave her number on the nightstand so they can “play again some other time”. Tyra’s humiliated but shows up at work that Monday only to have Tack try to fire her because he doesn’t screw the help, but warns her not to forget to leave her number this time because he might call when he wants back in her bed. Tyra refuses to be fired and refuses to further their personal relationship, Tack decides he wants her after all, and fireworks ensue. A couple of memorable quotes –

Tack:”That first night, I didn’t have it all. And I still don’t have it all but every piece you give me, baby, I like. So now I want it all and I’m gonna fuckin’ get it, Tyra. You aren’t gonna hold back, you aren’t gonna retreat, you aren’t gonna push me away and I sure as fuck am not gonna let go.”

Tack: “Babe, advice. A man expresses his gratitude, you do not throw attitude. You kiss him and, maybe, suck his dick to show your appreciation.”

and then much later –

“And into the darkness, to his sleeping woman, he whispered, “You don’t know this, baby, but some men have dream women too.”

If you want a low risk investment in which to try Kristen Ashley, I suggest Sommersgate House, which is only $1.99 right now. Its a contemporary about an American woman who emigrates to England to care for her deceased brother’s three lonely children. She has joint custody of them with her brother-in-law, whose sister also died with the heroine’s brother. The terms of the will require that they all live together in Sommersgate house, a big old, cold and haunted mausoleum. The heroine contends with ghosts, the hero’s horrible mother, three messed-up children, the gossip rags, starting life over in a new country, and yes, the arrogant, beautiful, wealthy hero and the fallout from his spying.

– Wendy Clyde