Reviewed by Tori
Sexy, gifted, and loyal, PI Jacob Decker is a tall, cool drink of perfection who had Emmanuelle Holmes at “hello.” His relationship with Emme’s best friend kept them apart for years, but things have changed. Now that a case has brought him to Gnaw Bone, Colorado, the road is wide open for Emme and Deck to explore something hotter and deeper than Emme dreamed possible. So why is she sabotaging the best thing that’s ever happened to her?
It isn’t easy to catch Deck off guard, but Emme does just that when she walks back into his life after nine long years. The curvy brunette had her charms back in the day, but now she’s a bona fide knockout . . . and she wants to rekindle their friendship. Deck, however, wants more. Emme’s always been the one; she excites Deck’s body and mind like no other woman can. But a dark chapter from Emme’s past overshadows their future together. Now only Deck can help her turn the page-if she’ll let him . . . (Goodreads)
Kaleidoscope is the sixth book in Ashley’s Colorado Mountain series. We first met Jacob Decker (Deck) in Breathe. Best friends with Chase Keaton, Deck helps Chase get himself out of the hole he dug for himself throughout the series and win the girl of his dreams. Our heroine, Emmanuelle (Emme) Holmes is a new face to the series. We learn that Deck used to date Emme’s best friend, Elsbeth. Elsbeth dumped Deck and Deck in essence, dumped Emme. Circumstances had all three (Deck, Emme, and Elsbeth) leaving Gnaw Bone and going their separate ways until they meet up again. Deck is surprised by the changes in Emme. No longer overweight and shy, Emme is a knockout who knows her own worth. She is also under investigation because of her boyfriend’s supposed illegal activities. Deck is hired by the police department and “deputized.” He offers to check out Emme, hoping to clear her and from there, he wiggles his way back into her life. As Deck and Emme spend time together, Deck realizes that he has always loved Emme and this time, he’ll do everything possible to keep her in his life.
Kaleidoscope felt like a Disney scrubbed version of a past Ashley book. An ugly duckling turns to swan trope, I should have been in seventh heaven as that is a favorite trope of mine but I wasn’t. Ever since Ashley was picked up by a traditional publisher, I have felt her books have only suffered. The tone, the character development, the conflicts and plot lines have all been whittled down to the point where I no longer hear her voice. The fine sometimes mundane details that made Ashley’s stories so irresistible to me aren’t there anymore. She has gone, for me, from a “must read” to a “I’ll get to it when I can” read. And that saddens me. Her characters no longer have a strong sense of self and lose their individualism once they meet and hook up. I first saw this developing in Own The Wind and it’s only gotten worse. No longer do we see them hanging out with friends and just talking. No over the top drama. No silly drunk scenes or raunchy advice. It’s been sanitized to the point where it’s just another romantic contemporary among thousands. Kaleidoscope was uncomfortable to read. It’s like it was sliced and diced and what was allowed to stay no longer fits quite right.
I was also dismayed to get a story about Deck. I liked him in Breathe but he wasn’t built up to the point where I needed his story right now. I’m still waiting on other characters who I have some serious investment in; Frankie and Bennie from the Burg and Hap and Luci from Heaven and Hell. I hear Ashley is starting a new series. While I think that is wonderful, I’m beginning to feel like a diner who is only allowed to eat a portion of a fantastic meal before it’s taken away and I’m presented with a new course to try.
On the whole, Emme and Deck were okay as individuals and as a couple but they lacked a quintessential element of spark and/or enticement to make them the celebrated Ashley couple readers have come to expect. She’s a giggly yes woman and he’s the definitive alpha male. I did like he wasn’t as rigid as some of the other males we’re encountered in her books. Though the constant harping on his geniusness got old after a while. Yes, he’s super smart, we get it. Their chemistry didn’t feel natural. It was written in and it showed. The conflict built slowly with some subplots tossed in to heighten the tension but even those fell flat. Any information we received concerning the multiple plot lines were presented in an unaffected manner. In fact, some scenes (when he sneaks into her bedroom to snoop) made me roll my eyes at the sheer unbelievability.
I did enjoy seeing some old familiar faces. Perhaps if they had interacted more with the couple one on one, I would have gotten a better connection and feel for the main characters and the story. As it was, I found my attention wandering throughout the entire book.
The ending failed in my opinion. Everything clears up with minimum fuss as has been the norm for the last couple of books. None of the usual over the top drama or in your face scenes that Ashley normally resolves her conflicts with. I reached the end feeling unfulfilled and rather ambivalent.
Though it pains me to do so, I can’t recommend this book with my usual enthusiasm. I know what Ashley is capable of and this doesn’t even begin to showcase her talent.