Kristen Ashley heads back to the Colorado Mountains in her latest contemporary romance and the seventh title in this series. Ashley fans will remember Deke Hightower from previous books; Bounty is his story. I was a little disappointed in the author’s last book which I reviewed it here and rated C-. Ashley fans will be glad to know that Bounty puts the author back on track with another winner.
Justice – Jus – Lonesome is hanging out in a biker bar in Wyoming when she looks across the courtyard and sees her destiny. At least she thinks fate is playing her hard enough to sit down immediately and write down some song lyrics. Then her destiny walks over, hands her a drink and asks her out for the following day. Justice accepts and the next day she waits. And waits. And waits some more. Her destiny stands her up and it shakes her up more than she would like to admit. But the song she writes and produces about the guy she first saw leaning against a chain link fence earns her accolades and she takes her place in her famous family as the third generation of Lonesome talent bound for stardom. Seven years later, Justice’s father dies and she is thrown for an emotional loop. Needing to hole up and heal, Jus finds a house in the Colorado Mountains that has been built, but not finished on the inside. The view and the vibe of Carnal, Colorado is just what she needs and she buys it. Imagine her shock when the construction worker sent out by Holden Maxwell’s firm to begin finishing her house is none other than her chain link man – Deke Hightower – and he has no idea who she is. Jus plans to keep it that way.
Deke works during the cold months so he can be free to ride his bike during the warm ones. He has never settled down because he never found a woman who did not want to tie him down. When his boss sends him on an overtime job, he is thrilled about the extra money that will be coming his way until he meets the client. Deke has absolutely no use for rich girls. He got burned by one when he was a teenager and has no intention of ever going back down that road, but he soon learns that Jus is not your average rich bitch. As Deke is in Jus’s house six out of seven days a week, it is impossible for him not to get to know her and everything he learns, he likes. But he still refuses to get involved. Then something happens that puts Jus in danger and Deke is forced to confront his feelings. Once he decides to go after Jus, he never looks back. It is Jus who doesn’t understand that the rules of the game have been changed.
Kristen Ashley’s heroes are the ultimate in alphas. Sometimes her alphas steer a little too close to abusive for believable rehabilitation to take place and it is those books that fail for me. Bounty is a welcome addition to the many contemporaries she has written whose alphas do succeed. Deke Hightower is an “Ashley Alpha”, but he is probably one of the most laid back and NICE alphas in all of her books. He has baggage as all of them do, but his baggage is the carry-on kind rather the heavy duty, shrink-wrapped and tied in cord baggage we sometimes get from this author. He doesn’t dwell in angst, or at least the alpha definition of angst; he learns to adapt and then he moves on. Deke is protective without being overbearing or misogynistic and he is not mean or cruel to the heroine. This is not a grovel book and that is a refreshing departure.
Justice Lonesome is one of the better heroines that Ashley has written. She is a genuinely nice person; self-actualized, competent, confident and acts her age. She has some issues in her life, but she tackles them with determination and equanimity. Thinking that friendship is the most she will ever get from Deke, Justice settles for that and tries to become a good friend. I cannot read Kristen Ashley’s Rock Chick books because the silly quotient of her heroines just becomes too much for me to take. There is no silly, ingénue type behavior from Justice Lonesome and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this character.
Bounty just misses DIK status and it is for a reason many Kristen Ashley fans will recognize; her tendency to describe every single object in a house from the floor to the roof with all the towels and kitchen utensils in between. It reminds me (and I am showing my age here) of the very first computer role playing games that literally had no graphics. They were all text and in order to play them, you had to issue commands such as: “look left, step forward, look right,”etc. and she has a tendency to take us on a square by square journey through each scene, leaving no description to chance. Setting the scene is important, but it can be overdone. I actually like Kristen Ashley’s longer novels better than the few that clock in around the 350 page range. At 635 pages, this book tells all of the story that needs to be told, but the extra descriptions make the final page count overly long. But that is a minor criticism about an author who has become an auto-buy for me and I look forward to reading about Wood and Maggie in the next installment of the Colorado Mountain men.