The Bailey Brothers series, by the prolific self-published author Kingsley, comes highly recommended by some of our readers. Curious what the fuss was about, I decided to give the series a whirl.
The series opens with Protecting Us, a novella that essentially serves as a long prologue to the first full-length novel, Fighting for Us. The lovers here are Grace and Asher, childhood besties who grow up to be each other’s soul mates. The first 75% of the novella tracks their progress from tree-climbing kids to besotted adults. This part reads like a million other romances I’ve read–it’s clear from the first paragraph that the two are meant to be. Things are perfect until, very suddenly, it all goes terribly wrong.
Their love story resumes in Fighting for Us which takes place seven years later. Asher returns home to their small town of Tilikum, Washington when he is released from prison. (I told you: their lives went off the rails at the end of Protecting You.) The two have had no contact since Asher was incarcerated–he says that is the only way he could have survived–and Asher is sure that Grace must have moved on. This, of course, is not true–the two are, after all, soulmates.
When Asher realizes the woman he loved still loves him he does not embrace her with open arms. Nope, he is, he reasons, too damaged from the long years of violence he lived in jail. And kudos to Kingsley for showing the reader that, yes, Asher is damaged. His time inside has left him paranoid, adrift, rage-filled, and unable to sleep. It’s believable that he would believe it would be wrong to tie Grace, the person he loves more than life itself, to such a f*cked up man.
Grace, though, knows that true love means getting through the tough times together and she is determined to get Asher to see that, no matter who he is now, they belong together still. This conflict is believable but, over the course of the book’s 500 plus pages, becomes repetitive.
Additionally, these books present overly idealized characters. The other Baileys, Grace, and even the local shopkeepers in the small Cascade Mountains town where the stories are set, don’t feel believable. I’m all for stories about those we can admire but almost everyone in these books is too flawless for me. The worst is Gram, Asher’s grandmother (and, when he’s out of prison, his landlady). Asher and his four brothers were orphaned when they were young and Gram and her husband raised them. Gram is Native American and is the story’s literal wise woman–discomfitingly, her portrayal veers close to caricature.
The only person who is genuinely flawed is the hero. Asher is an MMA fighter whose violent response to a threat to Grace landed him in prison. He is, throughout both books, without regret for the actions that led to his prison sentence. This makes him morally iffy and I wish that Kingsley had given him more a redemption that involved forgiving himself and those he attacked.
Despite my reservations about Asher’s character, I can see why Grace is so dedicated to him. Real love means loving your partner through good times and bad, and Grace, though clearheaded about Asher’s struggles, comes across as a patient and compassionate woman. I adored her relationship with her best friend, Cara although there is too much foreshadowing about the latter’s obvious pairing with another Bailey brother.
If you like dirty talk, there’s plenty here–is it just me or is talking about your genitalia in third person somewhat weird? I prefered the banter of the brothers to the bedroom chitchat. Really, the best thing about the series is the brothers and their lovely, often amusing, interactions. I’m sticking with the series for them and I can completely understand why so many readers have fallen under the Bailey brothers’ spell.
Both books unnecessarily together top 700 pages. I found myself skimming chapter after chapter–Kingsley is a good writer but these novels would have benefitted from some serious pruning.
In the end, I’d rate the first two Bailey Brothers series a solid C+. While the romances might not be the strongest point, the witty banter between the brothers and the delightful friendship dynamics are clear winners. However, if you’re looking for a deeper emotional connection in your romance novels, this might not be your ultimate destination. And be prepared for characters who are almost too perfect to be true.
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