Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I never forgot you, Rowdy. I always took you with me wherever I ended up.”
Rowdy St. James’s childhood left a lot to be desired with an absentee father and murdered mother. Taken into foster care, he befriends two sisters who become his anchors in his chaotic world. Rowdy was in heaven until one sister, his best friend, left him behind and the other sister tells him he will never be good enough for her. Rowdy buries his feelings, vowing never to let anyone get that emotionally close enough to him again. Now older with a family successful business, Rowdy has everything he ever wanted. Until she walks through his door and blows his world wide open.
Salem Cruz grew up in an ultra religious home filled with hostility and abuse. She ran away as soon as she could but never forgot the boy who loved her sister and made her home life a little more bearable just by being her friend. An impromptu meeting of a famous tattoo artist leads her to Denver and Rowdy. She knows he’s angry at her supposed betrayal but Salem is determined to be a part of his life again and prove to him that he picked the wrong sister so many years ago.
As Rowdy and Salem cross the line from friendship to lovers, the one person who stood between them as children comes back into their lives and history threatens to repeat itself.
Rowdy St. James has been an integral part of Crownover’s Marked Men series and fans have clamoured for his story. A fun loving bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks becomes much more as Crownover peels back his layers and reveals the events that built the man we see before us. Smooth writing and dynamic characterization gives readers a bittersweet story of love, loss, forgiveness, and hope. Incorporating the past and the present, we learn much about Rowdy’s childhood and the three people who meant the most to him in his life-his mother, Salem, and Poppy. Three people he loved and loss; leaving him to feel that he wasn’t worthy.
“She was my best friend and I was lost without her. When she left without so much as a goodbye it had been the second time in my life that I felt like I was being abandoned. I was once again left behind by someone that was supposed to care about me forever. “
Salem Cruz hasn’t had it very easy either. An abusive father left her a lifetime of emotional pain that she has slowly worked through. Luckily, she has a healthy self esteem that helps her to move past her childhood and make a good life for herself. A living breathing pin up girl, she now embraces life and has come to terms that her tattoos and flamboyant style doesn’t make her a bad person. Growing up she had a crush on Rowdy but his heart always seemed to belong to her sister. She came to terms with that but seeing him again brings back all those feelings and she believes that they could be a perfect match if he would just give them a chance.
It wasn’t a sweet kiss. It wasn’t a delicate kiss. I could taste the past and his resentment in it. I could feel that he was chasing down ghosts as his teeth nipped a little harder than they should have along the plush curve of my bottom lip. None of that mattered though because this was Rowdy and to me he felt like everything that had ever been good or made me happy in this whole entire world.
Crownover writes such strong characters and Salem is no exception. She knows her true worth and is comfortable in her own skin. I loved watching her try and befriend Rowdy again while running the gauntlet with his friends-who are very, very nosy and protective. Of course, it takes some mild flirting to give Rowdy the push he needs to open up the Salem and pour out his anger and sadness over her leaving him.
Chemistry wise, this couple lights the world on fire. Crownover does a fabulous job of identifying their issues without making them both into emotional black pits of despair, anger, and destructive behavior. The romance goes slow as Rowdy needs to understand why Salem left. Nice sexual tension and teasing on Salem’s part adds to the build up. They spend time together in and out of work, getting reaquianted with who they are now. Per usual, Crownover lets loose in the bedroom and gives the readers some nice visuals of just how well matched Salem and Rowdy are. *waggles eyebrows*
‘…at one point when he had his mouth between my legs and my knees around my ears, I was pretty sure I saw the God I had always heard about.’
The conflict picks up late in the story but merges nicely with the romance and subplots, tying together loose ends and allows Rowdy and Salem the freedom to be together with no guilt or uncertainty hanging over their heads. Though we spend a majority of the time relatively drama free, keeping this installment far less intense than the previous ones, it still delights with the emotional turmoil that flows through it.
Once again Crownover entertains with an engaging romance contemporary teeming with realistic characters, angsty romances, strong friendships, and interesting lives that will keep you waiting for each installment. Even though this could be read as a stand alone, it does help to read the the series in order to fully understand and appreciate the underlying issues and character dynamics of the ongoing arc. I am looking forward to Ash’s story which is scheduled to release April 14, 2015.