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Author: J. Kenner
Publication Date: 11 July 2017
Publisher: Ever After Romance
Series: Wicked, book 1, Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Recommendation: 17 and up
Rating: 4 stars
~ I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ~
Sometimes it feels so damn good to be bad
Photographer Wyatt Royce’s career is on the verge of exploding. All he needs is one perfect model to be the centerpiece of his sexy, controversial show. Find her, and Wyatt is sure to have a winner.
Then Kelsey Draper walks in. Stunning. Vibrant. And far too fragile for a project like this. Wyatt should know—after all, he remembers only too well why their relationship ended all those years ago.
Determined to break free from her good girl persona, Kelsey wants spice. Adventure. And she’s certain that Wyatt is just the man to help.
But when Wyatt agrees to give her the job only if he has complete control—on camera and in his bed—Kelsey can’t help but wonder if she’s in too deep. Because how can a good girl like her ever be enough for a man like Wyatt?
All Wicked novels are stand alones
I was really excited to learn that J. Kenner would be expanding the Stark World to bring in the stories of some of my favorite side or secondary characters from previous books and when I sat the synopsis for Wicked Grind I knew this needed to to the top of my TBR pile. I love the idea of not only this being a second chance romance but that the female lead is looking to be her true self, to find that inner goddess of hers and let it shine through.
Both Wyatt and Kelsey have spent their youth and young adult years fighting to live up to other peoples expectations while still trying to find and be themselves. Wyatt, luckily has an easier time of this with a supportive family, but always in the back of his mind it is that same family that keeps him from creating his own future. He comes from a family of wealth and power and while having that at your back might be nice, knowing that your hard work, that your passion, is valued for yourself and not your last name is where, for Wyatt, true happiness and contentment in life lies. Kelsey on the other side comes from a family where mental abuse was the name of the game. Learning to value herself was hampered by the words of a man who took his own failings and insecure feelings out on his daughter and to top it all off the one time Kelsey decides to break the cycle and live her life on her own terms tragedy happens, ultimately scaring (an scarring) her back onto the '(VERY) straight and narrow'
I really enjoyed this couples chemistry. I appreciated the slow burn that it was, that every other chapter wasn't a sex scene. That we really got to know who these two were both from flashbacks and 'real time' interactions. These are two characters that had a fast paced love 'affair' in their youth but are now completely different people than they had been. I liked that while there was the obvious attraction they took their time to relearn each other. Did I sometimes wonder when the heck we were going to get to the 'romance'? Definitely, but thankfully there is enough angst and back story to keep the reader invested in this two. The main thing that keeps me from giving 5 stars to this book is the end. Once you hit about 70% you start to wonder how in the heck the author can possibly have enough time to finish everything she needs to and the fact is that she didn't. The end (ugh) ended up being rushed. It's almost as if the author was so invested in the story that she forgot that she was writing a standalone instead of a series and then suddenly remembered, said 'well crap' and just threw the end out there. Now, that sounds worse than it really is. You get the whole story, you leave satisfied knowing that this story is complete, it just happens rather quickly. Everything up to the last 20% or so is a slow (but lovely) story so you're in this take it easy kind of mood and then BOOM, we're done, haha. Like I said though, you won't feel like the story was complete you'll just have one of those sit back and say whaaaa, moments and it certainly won't keep you from wanting to come back to the Stark World again and again. In fact, I am really REALLY hopeful that we will get Griffin's story. I feel completely in love with him and absolutely want him to get his HEA.
The nice thing is that if this is your first foray into a J.Kenner novel you will not be lost. Yes, this is part of the Stark World and yes we have met some of these characters before (in fact we get an awesome moment with Stark himself) but you will not be lost at all. There is no back story (other than Kelsey and Wyatt's, that you get in this book) that you need to know or will be missing out on. This is truly a standalone. If you are a fan of J. Kenners you are going to love getting back to this world and for your little peak at Stark, haha. This is a great read for contemporary romance fans. It is a fairly quick and easy read. Yes there is angst but not over much, there is romance but it isn't going to take over the story. This is a great read about growing up, growing strong, and growing into who you are meant to be and luckily finding love (twice) during the process!
~ HAPPY READING ~
She was driving him crazy. The way she held his eyes while she moved, so bold and flirtatious, as if she was just daring him to pull her into his arms and kiss her senseless. Daring him? No, strike that. She wasn’t just daring him, she was throwing down a goddamned gauntlet. But was she challenging him to claim her? Or was she goading him that he couldn’t have her? Damned if he knew. Right then, Wyatt was certain of only one thing—his body was tight, his cock was hard, and he wanted to be somewhere other than here. Someplace without other people. Someplace with a bed. It was the dancing that did it. Because Kelsey Draper and her dancing had always been his downfall. After all, that was what had started everything all those years ago. He’d seen her dancing to a bouncy pop song, her interpretation elevating the music and lyrics. He’d seen passion and precision, sensuality and seduction. She’d enchanted him. Cast a spell over him. He’d seen the magic in her, so much larger than the quiet, subdued girl he’d met before. The Kelsey he’d watched dancing had surprised him. She was vibrant. Alive. Unexpected. He’d fallen hard, and then she’d broken his heart. He wouldn’t make the same mistake again. He might want her—hell, he did want her. For his bed. For his show. But he damn sure wasn’t going to trust her. He’d already learned that lesson, and he really didn’t need a refresher course. As he watched, she dropped to the floor, then used one hand to rip open her shirt before letting it fall down her arms. She writhed on stage, her seductive movements making him ache inside, all the more when he imagined taking it further. Her wrists bound not with a tattered blouse, but with silk ropes. And not just her wrists, but her legs as well. Red ropes, the only color in an otherwise black and white image. Her body twisting, and the audience unsure if she was fighting the bonds or reveling in her own rising passion. She was exactly what he needed for the show. The complete package. Hell, he’d known that from the moment she’d walked into his studio. So why was he hesitating? Because he wanted her? Or was it because he wanted to punish her? Or maybe it was even more insidious than that. Maybe it came down to how much was riding on this show. It was his shot, after all. The apex of all his work and sacrifice. The chance to escape from under the black cloud his father had left hanging over him. The chance to prove himself to his family. To live up to the goddamn Segel name. But that would only happen if the show was a success. So maybe that was why he was hesitating. Because the moment he committed was the moment the truth crept toward him on little cat paws, and it would either curl up and purr, or rip his heart out. On stage, Kelsey rose, then did some sort of pirouette, twirling as she pulled off one of those transparent, colored scarves that served as a barely-there skirt. Wyatt imagined his hands on her waist, the brush of her skin against his palms as she spun. He could imagine her heat. The way she shivered under his touch. So help him, he wanted that. Wanted to hear her sighs. Those little moans he remembered. Another scarf went flying, and he straightened so that he was no longer leaning against the pillar. Instead, he shifted his weight from foot to foot as he tried to tamp down the rising lust. The violent need. To not only have her, but to have her in his show. He wanted her, yes. But she was an indulgence he couldn’t justify. An indulgence and a risk, because he knew damn well that she’d run if things got too intense. And damn but his show was intense. That was the point, after all. He couldn’t take a chance on her, no matter how much he might want to. Couldn’t even bring her in only long enough to test her out. Not on such a tight schedule. Not when there was no way to ensure that she wouldn’t bolt. Kelsey was a risk he simply couldn’t take. He had to get it right. There was too much at stake for him to be wrong about her. The final scarf fluttered to the ground, and Wyatt’s pulse pounded in his throat as he moved closer, his mouth going dry as she reached for her bra, pulled it over her head, then tossed it aside. The music faded out, and the dim, colored stage lights made the flesh-colored G-string blend into her pale skin, enhancing the illusion that she now stood before the entire room not just topless, but one hundred percent, birthday-suit naked. She took a bow as the lights came up, and the men in the audience actually stood to applaud her. She’d blown away the competition, and even though Wyatt wanted to rush the stage and wrap his jacket around her, he couldn’t deny the swell of pride he felt for her victory.
J.Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres. Though known primarily for her award-winning and international bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit. JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for them.” A five time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). Her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (as Julie Kenner) is currently in development with AwesomenessTV/Awestruck. Her books have sold over three million copies and are published in over twenty languages. In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.