Desert Isle Keeper
You know what you’re getting into when you bite into a Jackie Ashenden novel. Lots of internal monologuing from possessive, alpha male heroes and sweet, sassy-mouthed girls who wanna fuck as much as the heroes want to fuck them. Sometimes she’ll be funny, but she’ll always be sexy. King’s Ransom is Ashenden at her peak, combining humor, drama, angst and romance and reaching heights more pleasing than ice cream on a hot summer day. If you go in for never-gonna-love-you-but-ooh-oh-no-I’m-falling! Heroes, then this is gonna be catnip, and the heroine was the most delightful one I’ve read about in weeks.
Ajax King always suspected that his father was a criminal. When he was proven right, he vowed to destroy the man’s criminal empire and restore the family name by sending his father and all of his associates to prison, then creating a legitimate business from the ruins. Ajax spent two decades doing that, and now he’s down to the last head of the criminal hydra – William Wright, his father’s right hand man. After trying to bring White down through legitimate channels, Ajax decides that the best way to manipulate William into doing what he wants is by kidnapping his daughter, Imogen, and ‘ruining’ her. William is, after all, jealously and fanatically guarding his daughter to make sure she stays a virgin so he can sell her “pretty little hymen” (Ajax’s words) to one of his most trusted associates. So Ajax decides he’s going to hold her hymen hostage until William leaves Sydney. Preferably also Australia.
Imogen seems poised, innocent, wide-eyed, cool and impregnable on the surface, but she’s really a horny, motor-mouthed chatterbox under all the lace and silk, and she’s fine with being kidnapped, actually. Stifled, and a prisoner in her father’s gilded cage, she’s so distant from William she’s sure she’ll soon be crushed like every other pawn on the chessboard of his life, and she wants out before it happens. So she quickly helps Ajax engineer her kidnapping, and then happily settles into his house to hide out from her father. When he brings up his plan of ruining her, she’s all for it – since she desperately doesn’t want to be a virgin any more – and how the heck can you ruin a woman by taking her virginity these days, anyway? Well, Ajax is happy to show her – without taking that precious hymen of hers. Well, not at first…
Cue lotsa sex, and Ajax falling into his own trap. And the more time Ajax spends with (and inside) Imogen, the more he starts liking her, even though he’s determined to see her as a means to an end and not involve his well-guarded heart in the equation. Will he be able to keep his newly cleaned-up reputation spotless, win the girl and get William behind bars once and for all?
King’s Ransom has a way of hitting the reader right in that sweet spot – for me, multiple sweet spots. What helps the plot is that Imogen is no wilting flower; her active, enthusiastic participation in her kidnapping is hilarious, as is Ajax’s flummoxed reaction to it and then nearly everything that comes out of her mouth. She wants to go straight, wants to have lots of sex with this hot reformed bad boy – she might as well have some fun for once in her life. That Imogen isn’t even remotely afraid of Ajax as he glowers and postures and tries to look tough is what makes the book.
Let me be frank: if I could propose marriage to a fictional character, I would be legally wed to Imogen by now. She’s sweet and hilarious and smart, a breath of fresh air and a lot of fun to watch, as is her desire to live life like a real human being with heartbreaking eagerness.
I also giggled at Ajax, though mostly that came courtesy of how often Imogen flummoxed him. That helps downplay his usual me-alpha-me-ruin-you-for-all-other-men alpha male thing, though he does make Imogen turn red by calling her little girl. Tit for tat – his utter confusion at her not being afraid of having sex with him brings the balance right back, and Imogen engineering her own seduction was glorious. Otherwise their relationship is a lot of understandable push-pull; he doesn’t want to get emotionally involved or deal with the repercussions of what he’s done, and she won’t let him hide from them.
But the emotional bonding is nice, too. Imogen craves some kind of connection, and Ajax is more than willing to let her be herself. Meanwhile his only family is his two brothers (heroes of the previous books in the series) – his sainted mother is long dead – and his father tried to turn him into a killer. So he gets all protective and mushy, which feels like a big step, and they both have big, ugly jagged scars that they can only heal through mutual acceptance.
King’s Ransom will provoke, amuse and move its readers. You really can’t ask for more in a romance novel.
Well, besides sex! Lotsa sex! And you get that, too ;)