August 2, 2016

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Dare to Stay (The Sons of Steel Row #2)

Dare to Stay (The Sons of Steel Row #2), by Jen McLaughlin
Publish Date:
August 2, 2016
Publisher: Signet
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) Bruised and bloodied on Boston's mean streets, Chris O'Brien is reeling from the loss of his childhood best friend. But after barely escaping a hit placed on his head, Chris is desperate to live. A safe haven comes to mind - the home of the perfect girl from his childhood, Molly Lachlan. Before he has fully considered what it would mean to involve her in his mess, he finds himself on her doorstep.

When Molly agrees to let Chris inside her home, she realizes she's also letting him into her life. Danger and desperation are coming off him like steam, and yet she can't bring herself to turn him away. His bad boy charm always had a hold on her, but now there's a soulfulness and sorrow in him that she's never seen before. And despite the heart-stopping risk of helping him, she hopes against all reason that he'll stay...

When I learned that Jen McLaughlin chose to make the hero of her second Sons of Steel Row book the villain of the first book, I have to admit - I was scratching my head. I thought for sure it would be all about Scotty (who, incidentally, is going to be the focus of the third book). Instead, I was left wondering how in the world I could ever grow to love someone who was so horrible.

As it turns out, it was ALL about Chris. 

Jen pulled this off absolutely perfectly. The only way she could've won me over to Chris' side was to make him contrite and just pathetic enough that we feel badly for him, but not so much so that he loses his bad boy appeal. The thing is, I was won over within the first two chapters. Chris knows that his screw up has pegged the needle on the screw up meter, and he's prepared to do whatever he needs to in order to make up for that. He has a plan that he hopes will lead to his redemption. 

And then the girl next door totally fubars his plan.

For years now, I'd watched her from afar, silently wishing I could be good enough for her. That I stood a winter in hell's chance of claiming her as mine some day. But I didn't, because I wasn't. And we both were all too aware of that.

Chris broke my heart into little pieces. Between how his parents - particularly his father - treated him (and still treat him) and then losing his best friend the way he did, Chris is absolutely at the lowest point in his life when Molly finds him. She's everything he has always wanted but has never felt he deserved. She's sweet and good and sunshine personified. He doesn't want to dirty her up with his existence. Good thing she's also stubborn as hell. And it becomes her life's mission to show Chris all the wonderful things about himself that she sees, but he can't.

There was something about him, and the way he made me feel, that called to me. That told me not to write him off or send him away. Maybe it was his utter certainty that he was a horrible person or the haunted emptiness in his dark brown eyes that made me want to help him. Heal him. Change him. 

Chris is walking a very fine line. He's got to stay close to the bad guys, but find a way to keep talking to the good guys - including Molly. He's had a taste of what his life could be like with her and he wants more of that so very, very badly. But, if he stays with her, he puts her in constant danger from Chicago's gang scene. He's stuck between a rock and a hard place and he has no idea how to fix the situation. 

Neither did I. No matter how much I read, I couldn't find a way out for Chris and Molly. But, I wanted there to be one so much. I wanted all the best things for both of them. I wanted her to continue teaching and for Chris to draw and live and be happy with her. He totally redeemed himself to me, and that is amazing. It helped that he was really sexy. He and Molly were so awesome together. The sexual tension between them was off the charts. And, when they finally gave into it - cue explosion sound effect here. 

Well done, Jen. I seriously can't wait to see what's in store for Scotty. And I'm really hoping for a happy reunion at the end of his book. ;)

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