Reviewed by Tori
An old flame rekindled . . .
Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn’t interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara’s lost her business, her marriage, and she’s barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears about Zara’s plight, he’s on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.
Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time than absolutely necessary. But Ham’s faced his own demons, and he’s learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he’s meant to live. So when he hears that Zara’s having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he’s a changed man. (Goodreads)
Out of all of Kristen Ashley’s series, this one, Colorado Mountain, and The Burg are my top two favorites in her work. The protagonists are well matched, the drama high and the lovin’ sets the books on fire. So that should have automatically made Jagged another favorite, but it didn’t. Jagged is a mash up of various other storylines and characters but contains none of the spark that made those other stories cracktacular. The storyline is slow to start. We learn our protagonists history and Ashley leads us from the past to the present. Unfortunately, this section is told in a fashion that hints at recognition. I felt as though Ashley was telling me I should already know this, but that’s impossible because the heroine is new and the hero has only been seen briefly in two previous books.
Zara Cinders and Graham Reese have had a friends with benefits relationship for five years. She wants more but Graham, a long distance truck driver, has never made any noises that he wants more and furthermore, has let her know that she is not the only woman he is seeing. When it gets to be too much for her to bear, Zara ends it and Reese walks away. Three years later, we see that our heroine has not had an easy time of it. You will soon learn this is a theme in her life. She gets married because Graham isn’t going to settle down with her and decides to grab at her chance for happiness with both hands. She marries her prince, gets her castle, and prepares to live happily ever after. Zara realizes she’s not princess material in one of her many moments of self sacrifice. She gives up the prince and throws herself into hock trying to keep her business and her home. Of course, she refuses any money from her ex husband (she gave him all the furniture too) because she can’t be a martyr if she takes any help from him. Sound familiar? Lauren from Sweet Dreams has a similar story line but she pulls it off much much better. You may feel sorry for Lauren at times but you never pity her. You never look at Laurie and think ‘victim’.
Zara, on the other hand, screams victim. Sweet, beautiful, shy, and from an abusive home. Her life is a struggle yet she rises above it all and softly declares she will survive. She has her moments of “sass” but on the whole is a malleable person who will put up with a lot because she believes she deserves it. I saw a lot of Tessa (Wild Man) in Zara.
First off, I hated the nickname Ham. There, I said it. Call him Reese or G but not a pork product. It wasn’t cute, it was irritating. Graham is an Ashley hero to a tee. Gruff, stoic, pushy, and speaks in proper English until he falls in love to which his language deteriorates to slang. He has issues that affected his feelings for Zara then and now. He rides in determined to be her hero and fix everything but he isn’t ready for the emotional ties that comes with that sort of responsibility. And he screws up. An Ashley hero trait. Of course, she has to fall in love with him because he won’t settle for anything less.
Both our protagonists are poorly built in terms of characterization and depth. As I stated earlier, the story has a feeling that the reader should already know all this. We should already know them. This is not written like an introduction but more like a continuation. I also felt a lack of connection with Zara and Graham. They say the right things, they do the right things, but there was no heart. None of the WOW I have come to expect from Ashley. They were merely going through the motions. Even the dialogue was canned and lacking in the heat and humor that is an Ashley trademark.
The conflict, lucky, was interesting enough to overshadow the lackluster romance.The reveal of the issues Zara and Graham were fighting through and the emotional journey they take to resolve them are interesting though low key and unstructured. An additional character added to the fray made for some more dramatic scenes, keeping my interest engaged. I enjoyed seeing old friends though once again, we are shown all these strong ties Graham and Zara have to the community yet no real integration had been made of either of them in previous books. Nina rocks it in here but then she always does. She remains one of my favorite Ashley heroines. And the growth Max’s sister shows in here is remarkable. *laugh*
The ending failed in my opinion. Everything clears up magically with minimum fuss and even leaves some things unresolved. None of the usual over the top drama or in your face scenes that Ashley normally resolves her conflicts with. It’s all very matter of fact. I really felt this book was unfinished. I reached the end feeling unfulfilled. The book was rushed and didn’t allow me to really form an attachment with our protagonists or their story. It’s sad because there has never been an Ashley book I wouldn’t re read a thousands times but this is that book.
While I will continue to read Ashley’s books, this one I can’t recommend with my usual enthusiasm. True fans of Ashley will probably enjoy some aspects of it but I don’t recommend newcomers to start here.