August 4, 2015

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Strong Enough (Tall. Dark and Dangerous #1)

Strong Enough (Tall, Dark and Dangerous #1), by M. Leighton
Publish Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Format: paperback, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult suspense romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) How would I describe myself? Well, I’m Muse Harper. I’m a twenty-something painter who loves red wine, quirky movies, and men with a fatal flaw. But that was before I met Jasper King. He became my fatal flaw. Eight months ago, I had a choice to make—abandon everything I’ve ever known to protect my family, or stay and risk someone getting hurt. I chose the former. My plan was working just fine until I found out my father had gone missing.

That’s when I met Jasper. A bounty hunter with the eyes of a tiger and the nose of a bloodhound, he was supposed to help me find my father. What I didn’t know was that meeting him was no accident. Hunting people isn’t all that Jasper does. And helping me was only part of his plan. I just wish I’d found out sooner, before my heart got involved. But even then, I don’t know if I’d have done things differently.

Now, I have another choice to make—trust the man that I’m falling in love with and hope that he’ll do the right thing, or run as far away from him as I can get.

Holy crap. This book - it did things to me. As it turns out, I ended up buddy reading it with my good friend Val from Stuck In Books. There is nothing more fun than a good buddy read, especially when your texts back and forth are filled with lots of "OMG!"s and "I can't believe this just happened." and "Just wait til you get to page 74 - hubba hubba!" And, there was a lot of that going on between us while we read Strong Enough. 

Muse is a strong woman. She needs to find her father, and so she hires bounty hunter Jasper King to help her find him. Jasper has his own agenda, which he wants to keep hidden with every passing mile. No matter how many times he tells himself that Muse is just a job, he can't make himself believe it. For her part, Muse knows that Jasper is a dangerous man, and that she doesn't belong with him. But, no matter how many times Jasper confirms this, it doesn't change the fact that she wants him. 

He's wrong for me in practically every possible way. He's aloof and stoic, he's a veritable drifter with a dangerous job, he's vague and barely even friendly. He all but admitted to being only one-night-stand material. I mean, could he be a worse fit for me?

It was easy to tell that Jasper was a dangerous man. It was obvious from the prologue, which takes place when he's only a child, that this is how this man would grow up. That prologue - wow. It was so hard to read. Be prepared - it's rough. But, it's important in many ways to the story. It shows us where Jasper came from, both literally and figuratively. It helps explain why he is who he is now. And, it explains why he pushes Muse away again and again and again. 

Muse is the embodiment of life. She lives it to the fullest. She's full of vibrancy and joy and sorrow and pain and happiness. She is everything that Jasper is not. This man's life has hardened him to the point where he's convinced himself that things like feelings only get in the way of what needs to be done. But, around Muse, he has no choice but to let them out of the small corner of his heart that he's long since stuffed them. 

Feelings are what happen when you're alive. They're what make life worth living, good or bad. It's pain that makes pleasure so poignant. It's tears that make laughter so valuable. It's hate that makes love so important. And for this man, this gorgeous, strong, enigmatic man, maybe I could be the difference between them all.

After about half the book has gone by, it becomes clear that there is so much more going on than what you originally thought. There's a deep, dark plot in place that was set in motion by persons unknown, and it seems that no one's life is safe - not Muse's dad or Muse and Jasper themselves. There were twists and turns in the plot that gave me whiplash. I loved it - I love being surprised. All those OMG moments I mentioned earlier happened in the second half of the book, and it seems like they all came one after the other. 

Muse and Jasper had some amazing chemistry. It was there from the very moment they laid eyes on each other. Jasper spent the whole time trying not to fall in love with her. How could he not, though, when she lives so unapologetically? It ends up becoming a problem for him, though, because he starts to see how things could be different, when in reality, there is no getting out of what he does. It's an impossible situation, and my heart broke for the guy. 

"I'm just saying that a woman like you could make a man start thinking that things could be different, that life could be different. He could find himself in trouble if he's not careful."

My heart broke for Muse too. These two were destined to be together, yet nothing goes their way so that they can. It really did seem hopeless. 

The ending was perfect, though. And, we were introduced to several other strong, enigmatic, gorgeous men toward the end that I think will show up in later books in this series. Goodness, I hope so anyway. Because, if all the books in this new series are like Strong Enough, that can only be a good thing. And, the overall mystery that was introduced here was not solved. There will be plenty for these other guys to do.

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