Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: ‘I didn’t need some man I barely knew treating me like dirt.’
Sheriff Hixon Drake is still trying to come to terms why his wife of 19 years up and divorced him. Living in a crappy apartment that barely fits him, much less his three kids, Hixon is just trying to get through one day at a time. Then he meets Greta Dare and his life suddenly becomes a lot more interesting,
Greta Dare moved to Glossop, Nebraska to build a new life for her and her younger brother after her divorce. Working hard towards some peace and quiet, she wasn’t even remotely ready when Hixon Drake walked into her life.
Neither of them were looking for love but the pull between them is too hard to ignore and soon they are an item. But with four kids, an angry ex-wife, a vindictive mother, meddling family members, and a murderer roaming the countryside, Hix and Greta wonder if a relationship is worth all the complications that come with it.
Kristen Ashley is back with a complicated romance between two older divorcees whose connection is strong but for whom the timing seems all wrong. With a similar tone and set up to her earlier works from her Burg and Colorado Mountain series, Complicated brings us an older couple romance with some drama, angst, mystery, and a second chance at happiness for two people who deserve it. This title was first released exclusively to audio back in May but thankfully, Ashley took pity on those of us we don’t do audio and decided to also release in print.
Set in Nebraska, the story opens to our hero doing a very un-hero like thing. He has just had sex with the heroine and now he is leaving. That’s right folks…our hero has hit it and now he is quitting it.
But as long as it had been, he’d never been that guy. The guy he was right then going to be. How did that guy play crap like this?
“Thanks,” he muttered.
Another quick beat of silence before she said in a voice that was low and stunned, “Thanks?”
“Yeah.” He shrugged his shirt on his shoulders
But never fear, our hero soon learn the error of his ways. Like any good alpha, he often acts first THEN thinks about what he did. Of course, it helps when the heroine isn’t pining away for him and continues to go about her business like he didn’t even remotely rock her world. And then when his own son calls him out for being “that guy.”
“You hooked up with her,” he stated.
“Again, kid, I’m not gonna share—”
“And that’s it?” Shaw cut him off to ask.
“Sorry?” Hix asked back.
“So, you . . . what? You meet a pretty lady and get yourself some then scrape her off?”
That burning sensation came back to his chest. “Shaw,” he growled, thinking the way he said his son’s name said it all.
He thought wrong.
“So, like, Corinne, Mamie when she gets old enough . . . Mom when she starts dating again, it’s okay some guy hooks up with them and then just blows ’em off?”
Oh, how I have missed the Ashley of the past with her strong, gruff, stoic alphas, her pretty, intelligent, laid back heroines, her emotionally charged one-word sentences, and all the DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA. My first Ashley was Sweet Dreams. It was an editing nightmare but it made me a convert to the goodness that is Kristen Ashley. All the craziness, melodrama, steamy love scenes, and of course, Ashley’s need to chronicle even the tiniest of details.
Greta Dare and Hixon Drake are a combination of Mike and Dusty from Games of the Heart and Nina and Max from The Gamble. And I loved it. Hix is the quintessential Ashley hero. Alpha to the core, he is strong, forceful, and a very sexy man. The sheriff of Glossop, he had what he thought was the perfect life until his wife asked him for a divorce out of the blue. Though he begged her to tell him what he did. Begged her to let him fix what he broke, she refused. Now, the divorce is final but his wife wants him back.
He didn’t know. He had no clue. He just knew he’d asked repeatedly, demanded, threatened, then even got down to begging for her to let him in on it. She hadn’t done that. All he got was more, “You know, Hix. You know.”
And now he wasn’t only pissed at how she was behaving, he was pissed she’d never had the courtesy and respect for the life together to give him a straight answer about why she’d torn it apart.
Only, he’s found someone else. Someone who doesn’t make him jump through hoops.
Greta is, of course, likable and pretty, but more importantly, she is a relatable heroine whose sweet protective nature hides a core of steel. Her life hasn’t been easy. Born to an abusive mother and absent father, Greta took over raising her baby brother, Andy, at age fourteen. When an avoidable accident involving Gret’s mother permanently injuries Andy, Greta has enough and moves them to Nebraska. Working as a hairdresser and weekend lounge singer to pay for her brother’s care, Greta lives her life on her own terms and knows when to give in and when to stand toe to toe with someone.
“You’re good at talking and you’re not real good at listening. I’ve never been interrupted so much in my whole damned life. But it’s not even that. It’s just all about you. You think you escaped narrowly, I’m clueing into the fact that maybe the one who escaped was me.”
Ashley builds on the drama of their personal lives, interjecting with some external drama to keep the story in action. Dual narrative and fluid internal musings give us insight into both the protagonists minds-letting us see what they are feeling and how they are dealing with it. Hix pulls a Mike and like Dusty, Greta also believes in the three strikes you’re out rule. Lucky for Greta and us, Hix realizes right away that he screwed up AGAIN and knows how to grovel with the best of them.
“Why did you ask about the Avenger movies?”
He smiled at me. And I wished he hadn’t done it.
“Because my daughter says boys are stupid. They talk about themselves all the time, don’t ask girls questions, don’t let them talk, don’t listen. And I’ve unfortunately proved grown men who should know better do that too.”
Goddammit. Now he was making sense, being sweet and now kinda cute.
“I wanna know all about you, Greta,” he said in a voice that sounded like velvet and felt that way too. “So I’ll give you time to think about it. And after you have that time, I hope you give me that privilege, ’cause before the season ends, I wanna go watch my son play ball and have you there, walking out of Raider Field with me next to you.”
Their sexy chemistry is hot and sensual with a hint of rawness that works so well. I love that Hix and Greta are in the 40s and Ashley doesn’t age their sex lives into mediocrity. They are adventurous and have fun in bed. She does a good job of building this romance amidst a crowd of people who love them both. Outrageous secondary characters bring even more life and drama to the story. The entire town watches as their boss finally gets a clue about his ex and her drama while Greta’s bestie Lou reminds me so much of the Rock Chicks. Hix’s kids are great and I adored Andy. Ashley ends this story with a mixture of happiness and some bittersweet moments that left me satisfied overall.
Even with some minor character and plotline issues, Complicated was is exactly what I have been missing from Ashley and romance in general. Her ability to engage the reader and bringing back the over the top behavior and situations makes for easy, uncomplicated reading. A large part of Ashley’s appeal in general is she makes her romances about everyday people. Cops, hairdressers, mechanics, ect…Everyone deserves their fairytale romance, no matter their position in life, and Ashley gives that to her readers. I love Ashley best when she is balls to the wall, neck deep in drama and flinging out all her seemingly inconsequential aspects that personalize the story. She makes it so very easy to get invested in her characters lives and share in their triumphs and disappointments. I hope this continues and we see more retro Ashley in the future.