The Devil’s Jacks and the Reapers are two rival motorcycle clubs who pretty much hate one another’s guts. In recent years they have coexisted in a fragile sort of detente, with each party not backing down, but neither committing acts of aggression. Until now.
There’s been unrest between the clubs in recent months with each blaming the other for various actions. After a member of the Devil’s Jacks is mortally wounded and another seriously injured, the Jacks decide to take action against the Reapers. Jacks’ enforcer Liam begins an online flirtation with Reaper’s resident’s daughter Em, culminating in her abduction. By holding Em hostage, the Jacks hope to convince the Reapers of the necessity of adhering to the truce between them.
I’m of two minds about this book. This is sort of an amalgamation of an old skool abduction tale, Romeo and Juliet with a lot more leather and sex, and “what on earth am I reading?”. On the plus side the narrative is so compelling that I had trouble putting it down. And I generally dislike dual first person points of view, so that is saying something. The plot races along with turning points occurring at just the right moments. It’s an unpredictable sequence of events that kept me glued to the pages.
As the daughter of the Reapers chapter president, Emmy is accustomed to being on a pedestal. She’s always been somewhat sheltered, though she is cognizant of many of the more unsavory aspects of club business. She’s smart and puts up with none of Liam’s malarkey. Her willingness to go head to head with him without shrieking and behaving like a spoiled princess made her relatable.
Liam, though, presented a problem for me. Having grown up in the foster care system with only one sister, his club is the only real family he has known. While this elicits a great deal of sympathy from the reader, the author makes it clear that he is an extremely broken person who doesn’t fully understand what love is. He functions as the club enforcer so he’s done plenty of illegal stuff, up to and including killing in cold blood. To be fair, Liam does have some sweet moments such as when he comes clean to his club about his relationship with Em. He knows that doing so will cause dissatisfaction among his fellow club members and impact his chances for advancement. The fact that he is willing to take this risk with the only true family he has known demonstrates character growth.
I adore morally ambiguous characters, but with Liam I kept waiting for a redemption that was never quite accomplished. At one point he awakens after a party to find a heroin-addled junkie giving him a blow job. His reaction is to backhand her. He did not desire sexual contact and was unable to consent, which he points out to the reader. However hitting a woman, any woman, is never ok in my estimation. She had already performed the sex act and this was not a case of life or death at that point – so there was no need for him to get physical with her. Plus, he refers to her as a derogatory name for lesbians. After that, I could never envision him as hero material or as someone stable enough to maintain a mature relationship.
Which brings me to the troubling aspects of misogyny sprinkled throughout the text. Em has a strong personality and none of the female characters are meek, but the men regularly refer to women as “bitches” or “cunts.” While this may be realistic given the setting, it’s also distasteful. They don’t go so far as to treat their women as property, however they are objectified frequently. It’s made clear that virginal Em is of a different caliber than the cheap skanks hanging around the club performing public sexual acts. Within this realm there are two types of women: Old ladies (wives or steady girlfriends) and the groupies who are interchangeable and disposable. The portrayal may be genuine, but so was my feeling of nausea.
Ultimately, I couldn’t fully get past the hero who appeared sociopathic at times, the dearth of ethnic characters (minus “the cartel” from Mexico – yeah, the bad guys), and the Madonna/whore theme sprinkled throughout. This is a shame because the storytelling is exceptional. If you can overlook those facets of the book and don’t mind a good deal of violence, this may work for you. But I don’t think this series is for me.