Dare Me by A.J. Wolfe
Series: Rail City Combat, #1
Released: August 12, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: “You have a naughty side hiding under those prim little outfits, don’t you?” He squeezes me even closer into his side. “That’s me. Elegantly composed essay in the streets, unmoderated comments section in the sheets.”
Former Army Ranger and current MMA gym owner who is big and surly, punching people with his grunts and icing them over with his death stares, alpha but a totally sweet Big Guy meets his match in a determined, sweet with sunny disposition receptionist, determined to befriend the big lug and enjoy her newfound freedom and professional fulfilment. I was never not going to read this. Dare Me’s blurb gets in its own way, but I was able to siphon out the good stuff and determine this may be a good bet.
Have I ever told you about the time I was almost kicked out of a Vegas casino? Sordid story short, like my ill-fated showing in the gambler’s paradise, Dare Me was a bet gone oh so wrong.
I knew things were troubling when within the first few pages. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the heroine was bizarre and contrived within an inch of her characterized life. She was all over the place and none of it made sense nor did it endear me to her in the least. Quitting her job and breaking up with her boyfriend, in what must be the most asinine tantrum a professional grown woman has ever thrown, Alice discovers Dare’s gym, after chasing a wild pit bull through the city streets and down an alley where she wallows in garbage and stray dog slobber. Believing she is in danger, Dare, comes to assist and meets Alice in the throes of all her crazy, oddly intrigued by the beaming
idiot damsel. Fate intervenes and Alice is hired at Dare’s Gym, Rail City Combat where she is the goofy grinning, account balancing, receptionist extraordinaire the up and coming gym desperately needed and Dare never thought they’d have.
And all the mixed martial-art boys are smitten with her off the wall antics and bright personality, much to Dare’s chagrin. She’s his, even though he doesn’t do relationships and isn’t sure he likes her and dammit why is she always wearing her deceptively sexy outfits to his gym anyway?
Bottom line – Alice is ridiculous, makes ridiculous decisions and behaves in a manner that has me convinced she requires some sort of conservatorship. She and Dare have a strong mutual attraction, they hook up, shack up, fight and get back together. They have great sex and there is some funny banter but it is all overshadowed by poor character building and the conflicts that just don’t check out. Time after time, Alice is too annoying for words. She overreacts to things she should take in stride and she takes things that she should rail at in stride. There were about 15 too many instances where the author seems to be attemtping to create space for “awww Alice is soooo cute and Dare is sooooo sweet, swoon, you guys, swooon!” unfortunately, it falls flatter and flatter each time, never more so than Alice’s overreaction for Dare ordering her a veggie wrap for lunch.
*Taps mic* Ordering a vegetarian a veggie wrap is not a grand gesture, it’s not sweet or a sign of anything other than the person ordering food understands the concept of feeding someone who has made a lifestyle choice not to eat meat. It is not a big romantic moment. I repeat its basic decency.
And what’s with Alice’s overwrought goofy grinning act? Is this really the only way to convey the sweet, perky, wide-eyed ingénue act? It’s not cute and endearing. It made me feel like she’s the Portland town idiot. Bumbling around town goofy grinning at anyone who crosses her path.
Alice’s shoddiness aside, we know next to nothing about Dare when the book begins and we know next to nothing about Dare when the book ends. Nothing about this pair made me root for them. Alice is just so damn pleased with herself it was nauseating. Dare is a cookie cutter mercurial alpha- hold back- while pulling close, and besides being a rather attractive cardboard prop used for Alice’s never-ending “gosh darn it, aren’t I just the cutest thing” schtick, we never really get to know him which was a missed opportunity since the basis for his character suggests he could have had a compelling story.
“I was an army brat raised by a single father. I grew up learning to spit out short, blunt sentences to gain access to food, water, and later on in life, women. Luckily my type of woman is usually happy to get beneath me without much flowery crap, as long as they get a good ride.”
Nothing big really happened in Dare Me. There are a couple of thin subplots but for the most part, it is all about Alice and Dare and their relationship. Rail City Combat gym was a character in and of itself (cool) and I did enjoy the integrity the author used when describing the MMA gym, classes and overall environment. MMA is a thing in our house so it was pleasant to see it respected and made interesting in this novel. That and the banter, which was very funny at times, kept this from being a DNF. Alice has a quip for anything and some of them cracked me up, especially a text exchange she shared with Dare early on:
“Alice: What are you, some kind of pervert?! Were you following me? My father has a very particular set of skills, just so you know.
Dare: Don’t flatter yourself Sunshine. I was just passing by on the way to pick up my date, happened to catch your little show.
Alice: Oh, right. So uhm, how did your date go? Better than mine I hope.
Dare: It’s only 11PM and I’m sitting here texting you, so.
Alice: Ah, the brave girl managed to bust out of the trunk did she? Better luck next time big guy. (winky face)”
The over pace was nice, and it never really dragged or became boring. Creative and sexy love scenes nearly fulfilled the author’s promise to “melt [my kindle}” *wiggles eye brows* – but it was definitely more groan than moan worthy on the whole. Especially during the climax and resolution which bookended this novel in the only way it could, ending with a conflict and confrontation so absurd it defied logic. And I don’t mean real life logic. I’m talking it defied romantic fiction, suspend reality, relax-it’s-not-real-life” logic.
My mental notes at 30% into the novel sums it up: Why is Alice crying. Why is Dare so one-dimensional. Why am I still reading this?
Book two Taunt Me is out this fall. I’m taping out of Rail City for now.