July 16, 2015

REVIEW: Caged (Mastered #4)

Caged (Mastered #4), by Lorelei James
Publish Date: July 14, 2015
Berkley Romance
e-ARC, provided by the publisher.
adult contemporary romance
To Buy:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads)
In order to survive a life of tragedy, Deacon McConnell embraced his roughest edges and learned to fight on the streets. Then a life-changing jujitsu seminar led by Sensei Ronin Black led Deacon to become a professional fighter. With his muscular physique and his body covered in tattoos and scars, the MMA fighter defines mean, both on and off the mat.

But everything changes when innocent Molly Calloway signs up for his kickboxing class. Molly is Deacon’s opposite in every way: She’s kind, sweet, thoughtful, and educated. After a heated argument between them turns into a passionate encounter, Deacon realizes Molly is eager to experience more, and she looks to him to take her to the darker edge of lust....

The last thing either of them expects is how deeply their lives will be thrown upside down by the passion they find together.

I love Lorelei James' Mastered series. Every book so far has been a winner, including CAGED. Molly and Deacon have been dancing around each other since book 1, so I've been looking forward to this one for a long time.  

So, let's face it - Deacon isn't the romantic sort of guy. He's a big, hard MMA fighter who lacks a brain-to-mouth filter and scares the pants off all the people in the classes he teaches at Black Arts. You'd figure his ideal woman to be some bad ass fighter. So, the fact that it was meek, mousy Molly who caught his eye is unexpected. 

We could tell in previous books that Deacon and Molly had some sort of pull toward each other, but it's always seemed pretty volatile. Are you surprised? I mean, it's Deacon. Of course it's volatile. And, he's not the most tactful guy around. But, honestly, Deacon surprised me in Caged. More than once. After a disastrous first date that never really happened, Molly had all but written him off, even though she still thought about him all the time. Tried to forget her attraction by dating other guys. But, once Deacon decides something, he gives it singular focus. And, Deacon has decided that He. Wants. Molly. 

A focused Deacon is a thing of beauty. He might not have the pretty words or the grand romantic gestures, but when this guy throws his heart into the ring, he is literally all in. He wines and dines Molly in his own way, and because she knows that and because she likes him just the way he is, it doesn't take long before Deacon wins her back over. 

Learning about one another means learning about their pasts and their families, and that's a touchy subject for both Molly and Deacon. Neither of them had rosy, happy childhoods - especially Molly. And when a relative of hers dies, and Molly has to go home to deal with the funeral and her awful family. And Deacon really comes through for her. He's an unexpected hero, and I love that about him. 

Except, Deacon's not quite as forthcoming about details from his side as Molly was. He carries this big secret with him through all his dates with Molly, through all his training sessions with Maddox, through his fights in the ring, and it starts to wear on him as his feelings for her grow. You know how secrets always have a way of coming out when you don't want them to? 

One thing is for sure - the Molly in Caged is nothing like the Molly from Bound. In the time that has passed, she has found her inner strength, and that was due in large part to Deacon. At first it was because of his self-defense classes. And, then it was because of his love and support. But, I love the development in her character. And, Deacon has kind of met her in the middle. He was always on the opposite end of the spectrum. He was this unapproachable, mean, scary dude, and Molly brought out the softer side of him. 

Not that Deacon ever went soft. Geez - he's a total caveman. His protectiveness knows no bounds when he's in love. And he can really tear it up between the sheets. But, being in love, opens him up in new ways. He starts being a real friend to his friends. He asks for help when he needs it. He admits when he's wrong. Again - the character development is stellar. 

There's lots of time spent with the couples from the previous books - Ronin and Amery and Knox and Shiori. Knox and Deacon are besties and Ronin is sort of his mentor, so we see lots of them. We also see much more of Maddox, whom we were introduced to in the last book. I can't wait for his story - I just know it will be a good one. 

Every book in this series has been a winner for me. The strong, alpha men of Black Arts blow me away every time, and Caged was no different. I can't wait for more.  

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