Rowdy (Marked Men #5), by Jay Crownover
Published October 21, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: paperback, purchased
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
Rating: 5 STARS
(From Goodreads) After the only girl he ever loved told him that he would never be enough, Rowdy St. James knocked the Texas dust off his boots and set out to live up to his nickname. A good ol’ boy looking for good times and good friends, Rowdy refuses to take anything too seriously, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Burned by love once, he isn’t going to let himself trust a woman again. But that’s before his new co-worker arrives, a ghost from the past who’s suddenly making him question every lesson he ever learned.
Salem Cruz grew up in house with too many rules and too little fun—a world of unhappiness she couldn’t wait to forget. But one nice thing from childhood has stayed with her; the memory of the sweet, blue-eyed boy next door who’d been head over heels in love with her little sister.
Now, fate and an old friend have brought her and Rowdy together, and Salem is determined to show him that once upon a time he picked the wrong sister. A mission that is working perfectly—until the one person that ties them together appears, threatening to tear them apart for good.
Despite his name, Rowdy has always quietly hung out on the periphery of the Archer clan and their surrogates. He's been there, but hasn't made a lot of noise or been involved in any of the drama. He's been one of the other tattoo artists at the shop since book 1, but we never knew much about him. As it turns out, Rowdy's story is one of the most colorful and unexpected. So, it seems fitting that he end up with a girl equally as colorful and unexpected.
Rowdy grew up in the system in a little town in Texas. He made friends with the sisters next door, but when the oldest, Salem, left after being oppressed by her strict parents, he floundered. Rowdy ended up one of the Marked Men in Denver, doing well for himself. He was known as the easy-going one. Until Salem walks into his shop and takes a job there. Now, Rowdy's all twisted up, not really knowing how to feel about that. Salem, however, is a woman on a mission. She is gunning for Rowdy, and this time, she's not leaving.
Without a doubt, this story here is my favorite of all the Marked Men stories. There was drama, but it was well-placed and not gratuitous. There was lots of time spent on the four that came before this couple, which I loved so much. I think what I liked most about this book, though, was that both Rowdy and Salem were incredibly strong, confident people without a lot of hangups. They know who they are and are happy with what they see. That kind of confidence from both people in a relationship is rare in books, so I really loved seeing that. Both Rowdy and Salem gave as well as they got, which made them a dynamic and captivating couple.
Rowdy and Salem were best friends as kids. They needed each other - Salem gave Rowdy friendship and encouragement to follow his dreams. Rowdy gave Salem someone to hang out with when things got too hard at home. It didn't even matter that Salem was three years old than he was. They were two peas in a pod.
I can't blame Salem one bit for striking out on her own the second she turned 18. It sucked that she had to leave Rowdy behind though. And, he never forgave her for it. Salem spent the next 10 years floating from city to city working as a tattoo and pin-up model. And Rowdy got together with, then split from, Salem's sister. When Nash calls and offers her a job at The Marked, and Salem sees Rowdy works there, she sees her chance. Grown-up Salem puts on her big-girl panties and goes to get her man. GAH - I LOVED that about her.
Salem knew it wouldn't be easy. She knew Rowdy harbored resentment toward her. Hell, Salem herself had held on to a ton of guilt about leaving him behind and losing touch. But, as I said, Salem is one confident chick, and when she decides she wants something, she will do what it takes to get it. I love how Salem dogged Rowdy and never gave up on him or on the possibility of them. She was very willing to let her wandering ways go in favor of staying put by Rowdy's side. Convincing him of that was much harder than making it actually happen. Because Rowdy was not only wary of her ability to stay put, he was also still stuck in the past - stuck on the fact that Salem's sister was his first love, and she broke him.
"There's the first girl you fight with and the first girl you fight for. There's also the first girl you have to let go of. There's the first girl you love, obviously, and the first girl to break your heart. There's always a first girl, Rowdy, but there is also the girl that is going to come after her until you get to the last girl. The last girl is the one that really matters."
But, Salem is also a woman, with the same vulnerabilities as most. When she finds out that Rowdy's former relationship with her sister was more than she thought it was, it gives her pause. There's now a thousand pound elephant in the room with them every time their together, and it's name is Poppy. All of a sudden, Salem is wondering if she's just the replacement sister - the stand-in for who Rowdy really has wanted all this time. It messes with her mind and her confidence wavers just a bit.
There are many reasons why I love Rowdy, and the fact that he always is willing to talk to Salem - to lay it all out for her - is one of them. Rowdy is up front with her about how angry he is that she left and that he has no residual feelings left for Poppy. But, when Poppy shows up, the proof is in the pudding so to speak, and that's when things get real for both Rowdy and Salem.
I can't believe there's only one book left after this one. I've loved all these Marked Men so much, and just when it seems to be getting so amazing with the new shop and marriages and babies, it's coming to an end. Stay tuned for my review of Asa, the last book in the Marked Men series. Prepare for some blubbering on my part.
As an aside, I chose to feature the UK cover for Rowdy in my review, because that's the version I read. I purchased all the Marked Men books with the UK covers because they absolutely fascinate me. They're SO PRETTY. And, I love the contrast of the US covers featuring the men while the UK covers feature the women. I can't wait to add Asa to my collection!