June 23, 2015

ARC REVIEW: Wasted Lust

Wasted Lust, by J.A. Huss
Publish Date: June 24, 2015
Publisher:  self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult suspense romance

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) A girl with regrets…
Sasha Cherlin died the night she let Nick Tate walk out on her for a life of crime. Her very essence was destroyed when they broke their promise to one another.

A man with remorse…
Nick Tate made his choice with her future in mind. He loved Sasha enough to know that leaving her behind was the only way to keep her safe.

A path to revenge…
Special Agent Jax Barlow understands the bond of love and he plans to use it to get justice. Nick and Sasha will do anything to rewrite their past. He’s counting on that to bring them down.

WASTED LUST gives you the full JA Huss experience – vibrant characters, a full-spectrum of emotions, an unexpected HEA and the startling twisty plot that you’ve come to expect from this maven of the adult romantic suspense genre.

I have to admit to being a bit nervous to read this book. The Sasha I have in my head is the pre-teen assassin with a giant attitude problem and a chip on her shoulder the size of Denver. The thought of her meeting someone, falling in love – HAVING SEX – was a little unsettling.

The Sasha we meet in the beginning of Wasted Lust, though, is ten years removed from most of the horrible events of her previous profession. She’s 24, a PhD candidate, lives in a beautiful home, and is, by all accounts, a successful, loved, well-adjusted young woman.

But, it quickly becomes evident that you can’t go through what she went through and not carry the scars from it. It’s like painting over really ugly wallpaper. You can choose the prettiest paint in the store – a soft color with flecks of metallics to make it shine in the right light. But, over time, even the nicest paint will chip and reveal glimpses of that ugly ass wallpaper to the world. And, no matter how many times you try and patch the holes, once the damage is done, the only thing left to do is strip the paint away, and try to make the ugly wallpaper work.

I was born, and have always been, Sasha Cherlin. Company kid. Daughter to a traitor. Child assassin.

FBI Special Agent Jax Barlow is the first person to start chipping away at Sasha’s shiny veneer, and she is absolutely not happy about it. He shows up in her life very suddenly asking questions about Nick Tate, the man she was supposed to eventually marry, but before they could make a life together, he left her, never to be heard from again. So, yeah – Nick is a sore subject, as is how Sasha used to spend her time when she was with him.

Sasha has been let down and left by nearly everyone in her life, so trust is not something she affords easily, and she doesn’t trust Jax one bit, no matter how hot and sexy he is. He admits he’s after Nick, and no matter how badly Nick hurt her, she’s not about to give him up to the feds. But, Jax does know a lot about her. And, he seems to know at least a little about the life she used to lead. His persistence and willingness to stick by her, believe her, trust her and protect her continue to chip away at Sasha’s false persona until she has no choice but to bare everything to him and hope for the best.

For Jax, Sasha is an enigma. The fact that she’s survived this long as a Company kid is incredible. He thinks her brave, competent, controlled and intense – all of which she certainly is. And, yet, as time goes on, and he shares parts of himself with her, she reciprocates, and Jax discovers that there’s so much more to Sasha than the former Assassin Smurf. This puts Jax at odds with his mission. He must take down Nick. And Sasha only wants to save him.

My father is dead. Mother dead. Grandparents dead. Home gone. And Nick - the one thing I held onto after the Company took away my childhood away and turned me into a murderer - left me behind. Left me all alone. Because only a Company kid can understand what I am. We don't walk the edge, we live on the other side of it.

I have to say, I spent much of Wasted Lust not fully trusting Jax or his motives, which made me mad. Because I really, REALLY loved him. And I wanted him to be totally sincere in his professed feelings and actions when it came to Sasha. Because, if he was legit, then he was literally the whole package and everything that Sasha needed so desperately – someone who understood her, accepted her and loved her anyway. He was everything Nick never was or could be, and that made Sasha’s choice of who to love and trust easy, at least from where I was sitting. But, for Sasha, it was not nearly as simple. How could it be when she’s loved Nick and been promised to him for so long?

Sasha broke my heart. She struggles constantly with what should be a simple question. Who. Am. I? Is she the assassin or the co-ed? The lover or the fighter? Even Sasha doesn't know, and this is something that she is desperately trying to figure out. She thinks it's the key to her happiness. Or her downfall.

"So, tell me something real, Jax. Because every day I feel like a fake. I'm not real. I'm that illusion you thought I was. An apparition of that girl the Company made me. I have no idea what I'm doing. And I feel like I'm suffocating. I feel like I've been walking around wearing a costume for ten years and it's so much a part of me, I'm afraid to take it off. I think I'll lose myself for good if I take it off, Jax. So tell me something real. Or this ghost version of me might float away and disappear. I might never pull myself back from that."

As we get to the root of the main issue – whether the Company really is gone and what is happening to the children of Company operatives – that is when all of JA Huss’ signature plot twists come into play. You know all along that there is more going on than what is currently on the surface, but I promise you, you have absolutely no idea how deep that rabbit hole is until it all comes out.

And, the really incredible thing is, the big reveals that happened over the course of Wasted Lust were not all self-contained. There were huge revelations about events that happened in Three, Two, One, Meet Me In The Dark, and Coming For You that just blew my mind. Things I never knew and back stories that explain so much more make me want to go back and re-read them with this new knowledge in my head.

Twelve of JA Huss’ prior books – Tragic, Manic, Panic, Slack, Taut, Bomb, Guns, Come, Come Back, Coming For You, Meet Me In The Dark and Three, Two, One – all come together in one final epic epilogue in Wasted Lust that gives us a chance to say goodbye to these characters that have been through so much together. There is an incredible sense of hope and possibility there that make it the perfect send-off.

Make no mistake, there are parts of Wasted Lust that will devastate you – but it’s the good, cleansing kind of devastation that leaves hope in its wake. Like, you finally get all that fancy paint chipped off (which was a messy job, BTW), only to take a step back and realize that that wallpaper you previously thought was so ugly actually has some beautiful qualities. And, when you pair it with the right accessories, it really makes the whole room better.