April 29, 2014

REVIEW: Afterburn and Aftershock

Afterburn and Aftershock, by Sylvia Day
Published March 11, 2014
paperback, provided by the publisher
adult erotic romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
Never mix business with pleasure. Never bring politics into the bedroom. In a way I did both when I took Jackson Rutledge as a lover. I can't say I wasn't warned.

Two years later, he was back. Walking into a deal I'd worked hard to close. Under the tutelage of Lei Yeung, one of the sharpest businesswomen in New York, I had picked up a thing or two since Jax walked away. I wasn't the girl he once knew, but he hadn't changed. Unlike the last time we'd drifted into each other's lives, I knew exactly what I was dealing with... and how addictive his touch could be.

The inner circle of glamour, sex, and privilege was Jax's playground--but this time, I knew the rules of the game. In the cutthroat business world, one adage rules all: keep your enemies close and your ex-lovers closer...

Afterburn and Aftershock are the first and second halves, respectively, of a full story that were released at different times in digital-only format; Afterburn came out in November 2013 and Aftershock released in March 2014. Also released in March 2014 was both stories under one paperback cover.

 I remember walking into the Javits Convention Center last May for BEA 2013 and getting absolutely giddy with excitement at the sight of the big banner advertising Afterburn and Aftershock hanging from the convention ceiling. But, when it came time, I decided to wait until March and read both parts at the same time. I just knew that reading only half of this story would make me crazy and waiting would be torture. Now that I've read the whole story, I can safely say that I made the right call last fall.

Jax and Gia had a whirlwind affair two years earlier. Gia was completely in love with him and really thought they were in it for the long haul. Then, one day, he just stopped showing up and answering her calls and texts. Now, Gia is the assistant to a huge restaurateur in New York City, and while her professional life seems to be on track now, she still hasn't gotten over the devastation that followed in Jax's wake. All of a sudden, he makes a reappearance in her life, working for her employer's main competition. To make matters worse, he seems to want her back. But, Gia's trust in him was shattered, and she knows that if she allows him back in her life, and he leaves again, she won't recover a second time.

Jax was a wonderfully sexy enigma. For most of the book, I had a hard time figuring him out. He's definitely of the alpha male variety - he stalks, he demands, he broods, he leads.

He came into the bar with a sultry stride that made my hands curl into fists beneath the tablecloth. That walk of his was easy and smooth, confident. And yet, it somehow signaled to the female brain that he was packing heat between those long, strong legs and he knew how to use it.

There were moments when I wondered what Jax's motives were in regards to Gia. He obviously cared about her. He also seemed to like toying with her and making her angry. She certainly presented him with a challenge, and being a man at whose feet most women would willingly fall, this one that he seems to actually want, refuses to play his game, and that excited him.

There were moments, though, that Gia broke through his carefully-constructed and rehearsed facade. Those moments - THAT Jax - is what made this book amazing. If a man gushes and makes moonie eyes and is disgustingly sweet right from the beginning, the chase isn't nearly as much fun to read about. You know what I mean? It's the guys who you have to figure out - the ones whose motives you're not entirely sure of. Those are the ones who make me so excited to read that I'm willing to stay up into the wee hours just to find out what happens. Apparently, Gia and I are of the same mind on that topic.

   "I'm processing the fact that you're in love with me, Jax. Still, you bailed on me. And now you're sabotaging my work and your own chances with me."
   "Gia --"
   "I'm on to you, Jackson Rutledge." My voice was low and hard, unwavering. "I'm going to figure you out."
   "I'm an open book," he retorted.
   "You're a head trip... and your mystery-man days are numbered."

Gianna Rossi was one tough chick. Although Jax's family life is seriously messed up, I loved the fact that Gia's was rock solid. She has three older brothers and parents who are still married, all of whom love her to the moon and back. It sounds exactly like I'd picture a tight Italian family would be. Their dynamics were awesome to read about, and I love the protectiveness her brothers showed for her.

To say Gia's and Jax's relationship was volatile would be like saying the ocean is deep. But, what made their relationship sexy and fun and interesting as opposed to annoying or creepy or frustrating was the fact that it was apparent that they both loved each other very much. As I read on, it became apparent that there were reasons that Jax left Gia before, and I couldn't wait to find out what had caused him to leave something that he obviously cherished a lot.

And, Gia had to decide whether she could get over his reasons and the fact that he made her miserable for two years before she could decide whether to give him another shot. It's a big thing for her - it would be for anyone. Is the mere possibility of the ideal end game worth all the bullshit and potential heartache to get there?

"I've always seen white picket fences in your eyes when you look at me. I was positive I wasn't that guy. I was wrong. One of these days, when you're ready, I'll give that dream to you. And you're going to give me a gorgeous little girl or two with your dark curly hair and smiles that slay me."

Afterburn and Aftershock were told entirely from Gia's POV. The pacing of the story was perfect with just the right amount of flashing back (through Gia's inner musings) to tell the backstory of what happened between Gia and Jax two years earlier. There was political subterfuge, back-stabbing business deals, and super hot and sexy scenes, as only Sylvia Day can write.

Afterburn and Aftershock was the first book published for Harlequin's Cosmo Red Hot Reads series, which teams Harlequin up with the insanely popular women's magazine. As a result, after the story is over, the reader is treated to a few of Cosmo's famous quizzes, which I thought was a really fun addition, and a great way for them to showcase their epic partnership.

My only complaint is that the story went by too fast. I'm hoping that, perhaps, Ms. Day will do her own wheeling and dealing to get some more stories from this world to us. Perhaps something about one of Gia's brothers - say, Nico? Just sayin'. I'd be all over that.

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