Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “A tarnished throne for a tarnished king in a tarnished kingdom. Can you handle being a tarnished queen?”
Race Hartman stepped out of the ruins and crowned himself king of the Point after he and his best friend take down it’s old ruler in blaze of betrayal, sacrifice, and gunfire. The Point has always been a dangerous place but someone like Race can control it if he doesn’t allow it to control him first.
Brysen Carter is Race’s sister’s best friend. She knows what a dangerous man looks like and Race is definitely too dangerous for her. His pretty face, gorgeous body, and addictive charisma just screams trouble. Brysen has her own troubles and doesn’t need to add to them.
When someone starts stalking Brysen, leaving her threatening texts and escalating to attempted murder, Race steps in to protect Brysen from harm.
But who will protect Brysen from Race?
Welcome to the Point where everything you ever wanted is available…for a price. And you will pay that price, one way or another. Dark and gritty, no one escapes unscathed. The trick is to be able to know just how far you can take it and get out before it takes you.
First off, I have to get this off my chest. I dislike this cover. Actually, I dislike the model. He doesn’t scream dangerous sexy bad boy, rather, he screams geeky 80’s hair model whose only threat to me is I may pee myself laughing. The cover for book one was much better and more indicative of the storyline.
Now, on to the review.
We first met our ‘hero’ Race Hartman, the rich thrill seeking bad boy, in book one. The half-brother of Dovie Price, we learn of the part he played in betraying and sending his best friend Bax to prison and the reasons behind it. Better When He’s Bad leaves off with the Point in need of a new king and Race stepping up to claim the throne. Looking like a rich, over privileged, Princeton bound golden boy from the Hill, Race is anything but golden as he runs the largest gambling ring and chop shop in the Point. His danger lies in his looks, charm, and intelligence.
“None of us live in a bubble. We all gotta look out for one another because no one else gives a hit if we make it out alive.”
Brysen Carter also comes from the Hill but unlike Race, she hasn’t found a way to dig herself out from underneath her dysfunctional family’s problems. With an increasingly absent father, drug addicted mother, and a younger sister, Brysen is barely hanging on. She was forced to move home when her parent’s problems left them unable to pay for school anymore. She now works and goes to school full-time while counting the days until she can get her sister into a good college far away and then she too can leave the hell she calls home. Best friends with Race’s sister, Dovie, Brysen is one wrong step away from the edge.
“The lengths we go to in order to keep our family safe, to do right by those we love, is often a weighty burden to bear.”
Crownover takes us back her crime laden city in her newest installment, Better When He’s Bold. Book two in a Crownover’s romance suspense NA series picks up right where book one-Better When He’s Bad left off. Well written with a punchy pace, Crownover continues to expand the arc, introducing new subplots and characters to the story. Each story revolves around one couple, ending with a plausible “happy for now” or HFN. Alternating points of view allows us an intimate view of the protagonists’ emotions and feelings in the events unfolding without an endless recap of previously seen material. Dynamic and engaging characters round out the story, adding authenticity to the danger that lurks in the background.
Unwanted attraction is a tricky trope that when done well can gift the reader with a wonderfully emotional conflicted romance. Luckily for readers, Crownover does it very well with her dramatic and dark themed love stories that flow and ebb around the conflict and external subplots. Race and Brysen both feel their lives are not conducive to having any sort of relationship but that doesn’t stop the drugging want and need that consumes them every time they come into contact. Similar childhoods show they were both used as pawns by their family which has left them with some heavy emotional baggage. When Race discovers the danger Brysen is in, he tosses aside all his concerns and jumps in, determined to save her. No longer able to fight their attraction, they both succumb to the heat that blazes between them, bringing up whole new set of problems.
“I don’t know what to do with you, Race.”
“Yes, you do.”
The romance is an intense heady mixture of passion and lust. Though both are relatively young, there is a maturity to their thoughts and actions that flows over into the romance. Steamy scenes and titillating dialogue with a distant lack of over the top dramatics and episodes gives credence to their feelings. Seeing two people give voice to their wants and needs is one of the selling points in Crownover’s books. Race is perfect in his dominance and demands because they are tempered by genuine concern and affection. He wants Brysen, always has, and her safety and happiness is what drives him. Brysen isn’t one to play games. Strong, intelligent, and down to earth, she is comfortable with her sexuality with no hang ups or distractions to keep her from falling for Race.
“If he was going to adopt the habit of kissing me senseless every single time he felt I needed a distraction, I was going to have to make a point of getting out of sorts around him more often. I felt his body react underneath mine. Felt him get even harder through the layer of denim separating us, and his hands got tighter in my hair.
There was always an edge to Race, a razor-fine line that lurked behind all that Midas glow he possessed that hinted at a stronger core, a wilder side to him that I think he kept out of sight from the rest of the world.
He was so much more than a disinherited rich kid, had so much more going on than being Bax’s partner in crime, but it was so easy to be blinded by his sheer beauty and suave manner that I think all the facets to him were easily overlooked.
Right now, with his hands getting a little rough, his breath rasping in and out, and his eyes glinting all hot and dark, there was no mistaking that he was capable of doing really bad things to me . . . God, how I wanted him to do all of them.”
Better When He’s Bold is a roller coaster ride of action packed suspense, intrigue, betrayal, and deception that leaves the reader on the edge as the drama unfolds and clues are given to what the future may hold for everyone involved. A better balance between the romance and the conflicts gives readers more substance in this installment. More time is spent developing additional characters who Crownover hints at having future impacting stories that I can’t wait to read. Crownover continues to excel in writing tough as nail bad boys who will burn the world for the women they love.