RFG Recommends: The Promise by Kristen Ashley

2 Jul

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I used to HATE first person point of view, if it was written in first person I’d put the book down no questions asked. Reading Kristen Ashley books has made me do a 360 so fast I accidentally whipped my arm around and slapped myself silly for having such an unfounded prejudice.

I now thoroughly enjoy first person point of view when it is done well as it gets me so deep into a character’s head and way of thinking that I always feel the need to take a few deep breaths to return to reality when the book is done. I especially love being in the heads of KA’s female characters. I thoroughly enjoyed being in Frankie’s head – every single dramatic, kind, smart, passionate, hot-blooded part of it.

Here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

As you can see from the blurb above, this is the story of Frankie and Benny (and doesn’t that sound like a movie title?). We first met Frankie and Bennie in the book “At Peace” which is the story of Violet and Cal and is one of my favourite KA books of all time. Frankie and Benny have a long and complicated history- Frankie is the former live in girlfriend of Benny’s dead brother. Did you get that? Frankie was the girlfriend of Vinnie Junior, Benny’s older brother. Now, Frankie loved Vinnie very much but Vinnie was one of those guys who always wanted MORE. A result of this wanting more was that he got himself tied up with the mob and a result of THAT is that he got himself killed.

Vinnie’s family, a close-knit, slightly eccentric Italian family, loved their son ( he was a bit of a douchebag but a very loveable one from all accounts), were grieving and somehow ended up blaming Frankie for Vinnie’s unfortunate choices. Poor Frankie was cast in their minds as the money hungry girlfriend pushing their son/brother to have more, do more, be more because it was easier than dealing with the fact that Vinnie was lovable but weak. Frankie, being Frankie loved them and took the blame for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS y’all! That is a very long time to be putting up with that kind of treatment and as this book opens Frankie is well and truly over it.

Unfortunately, she had to go and do something heroic- she saved Violet from a mad man and got shot for her efforts. I won’t go into the whole family history here because that’s part of “At Peace” and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. This book reads so much sweeter if you did read the previous book as it ties in nicely, but if this is the first Kristen Ashley that you are reading then:

• You’re fine as the back story and all the other characters are explained really well anyway so you can start here
• You are one lucky duck as KA has a MASSIVE backlist that you can now go through. Hurrah!

As I’m sure you can guess from reading the background of the story, a lot of the conflict here is internal. It’s Benny and Frankie getting over their shared and respective pasts to try and be together. The fact that Frankie was dating one brother and then another was one of those issues and I’m really glad KA did not gloss over how awkward it was or what other people thought about it. Frankie in particular had a lot of old issues that she needs to deal with as her family life was extremely dysfunctional. Frankie for me was a quintessential KA heroine in that she may have been a little messed up and imperfect but underneath was a heart of pure gold.

But let’s talk about Benny for a moment. Benny was described in the book as having chocolate brown eyes, dark hair and a ripped body. Throw in close family ties and the ability to cook and I think I may have just found me my newest book boyfriend. If I had a complaint it would be that when I read the book the first time I found him to be almost a little TOO perfect in the beginning. But when I read the book the second time (yes, I have read it twice I enjoyed it that much) I realized that I was seeing Benny through Frankie’s eyes, Frankie who had her supremely narcissistic douchebag father and ex- kinda douchebag boyfriend as male role models. There’s a scene in the book where Benny’s looking for something for her and she freezes in place expecting him to blow up and get frustrated and angry with her when he can’t find it. Instead he finds it, hands it to her and goes off to work. It’s a small thing and most women would probably take that for granted, but Frankie having the history that she does, doesn’t.

Benny is terribly affectionate and understanding especially in the first part of the book where Frankie is still recovering from her gunshot wound and the whole Bianchi family is still feeling very guilty about their past treatment of Frankie. Don’t get me wrong, KA doesn’t write beta heroes. Benny is still 100 percent pure alpha who knows what he wants and is not afraid to demand it, but he doesn’t have any asshole moments as big as Joe Callahan for example. If you’ve read the Rock Chick series I would say he would be closest to Ren – not because they’re both Italian but because they both understand their women very well and work very hard to keep them.

What I love about Kristen Ashley books is the way she balances out realism and pure fantasy. On one hand you have serious emotional and psychological issues that each character has to work through. On the other, you have these larger than life characters that manage to run you through a gamut of intense emotions through some oftentimes improbable scenarios.

Along with the drama and fire and flash, there are little pockets of realism like Benny keeping Frankie’s lip gloss in his pocket because she didn’t want to bring a bag to their date or Frankie making sure that she had a lot of chips in her house because Benny has a fondness for them. The importance of calendars in Benny’s life is also something that I found very beautiful in its simplicity.

My biggest complaint about the book would be that I wasn’t sure that the external conflict at the end of the book was really needed. I really enjoyed seeing Frankie and Benny with each other without the bad guys being thrown in. That said; I did appreciate how the external conflict meant that I got to see some characters that I love from previous books. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who shows up but I have to admit that I squealed like a star struck teenage fan girl in the presence of her favourite boy band when I read some of the familiar names on the pages of my e-reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was another cracktastic KA book for me! The Promise will be published on July 8, 2014 and pre-order links are up at most e-book sellers.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC in exchange for a review

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