Narrated by Abby Craden
Trigger warning: sexual assault/domestic abuse (not by hero)
Ride Rough is the second book in Laura Kaye’s Raven Riders series but it can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.
Alexa Harmon is in an abusive relationship. She’s just beginning to realise that Grant Slater, her fiancé and the man she has been dating for the previous nearly five years, is controlling and is becoming violent. Over the course of their relationship he has cut her away from her friends and he dominates her time. She works for his company, he supplies a house for her mentally ill mother and he even is the named owner of Alexa’s car. Alexa is almost entirely financially dependent on him.
Five years before, Alexa’s brother Tyler died in a motorbike accident. At the time, Alexa had been dating Maverick Rylan, a member of the Raven Riders MC. Tyler had also been a prospect with the club and when he died, Alexa’s world was thrown into a tailspin. She realised she was solely responsible for looking after her mother and she felt she could not rely on Maverick to always be there. Partly this was because of the not-always-squeaky-clean activities of the Raven Riders and partly it was because Maverick had not indicated he wished to commit to her. She split up with Maverick and quickly fell into a relationship with Grant, the boss at her (then) new job.
Shortly before the book starts, Grant and Alexa had fought. (I believe this may have been included the earlier book but it is sufficiently recapped here.) Grant kicked a box at Alexa and she fell and hit her face and head on a table when she was taking evasive action. After that fight, Alexa fled to the Raven Riders compound and came face to face with Maverick for the first time in years. Apparently, the Raven Riders are committed to protecting women and children from abusive relationships and Alexa’s appearance pinged Maverick’s abuse radar. Alexa quickly decided she needed to go home to Grant and didn’t disclose much about what had been happening, but after that encounter, Maverick decides he needs to keep an eye on her. He has never stopped loving Alexa and besides, Tyler was his best friend. Even apart from his own relationship with Alexa, he feels he owes it to Tyler to look out for her.
As Alexa and Maverick come once again into each other’s orbit, Alexa is struck by the stark differences between Grant and the other man. Maverick may look rough around the edges but he is kind, protective and supportive and would never ever hurt her. Grant looks slick and GQ but he is mean and controlling and violent. There is a sex scene which is clearly non-consensual between Alexa and Grant. Even though Alexa does not go so far as to consider it an assault in her own mind, some listeners may find this very disturbing.
When Grant kicks Alexa out of the house they share in a jealous rage one night, Maverick is there to help her pick up the pieces. Maverick and Alexa very quickly move into their own relationship. It was certainly quick and ideally, Alexa would probably have been better to spend some time alone to sort herself out. But, because they had so much history, it was fairly easy for me to believe that Alexa and Maverick belonged together.
I was occasionally struck by the ways that Maverick was sometimes very demanding of Alexa. Mostly this was about keeping her safe but it is only a hop skip and a jump from Maverick’s style to Grant’s. The book explicitly states that Alexa isn’t frightened of Maverick whereas she is of Grant and it is clear that Maverick’s motivation is vastly different, but I can’t say it didn’t give me a few qualms from time to time. That said, Maverick did indicate he was acting that way only because he perceived Alexa to be in danger and that wasn’t his normal mode. Also, he did think to himself later on that he didn’t want to be a controlling jerk like Grant. I was able to give it a pass for the most part but I did note the occasional uncomfortable similarities between the two men.
The narration, by Abby Craden, was okay. Ms. Craden sounds like she has her jaw clenched when she’s doing her male character voices and this makes them sound grumpier than maybe they should be. There were occasional times when the differentiation between Maverick’s and Grant’s voices wasn’t as strong as it ought to have been – particularly given my thoughts above.
Also, Ms. Craden sometimes delivers her lines in a kind of staccato – my sense is that she is very carefully enunciating the words so as not to trip over them – but when this happens, some of the emotion is lost.
However, for the most part, Ms. Craden did deliver the tension of the story, both suspenseful and sexual, and her pacing and characterisations were good.
The Raven Riders are perhaps a somewhat sanitised version of a motorcycle club, but this actually suits my tastes so I’m not complaining. Maverick is a rough diamond but there was no doubt he was all in for Alexa.
For extra bonus points, Ride Rough also featured an ugly-cute hairless Sphinx cat who likes to play with a rubber ducky in the bathtub. :D
There were a couple of important things (albeit not relationship based) which were left hanging at the end of the book. I guess I’ll have to listen to or read the next one to find out what happens!
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Trigger Warning: domestic abuse and sexual assault (not by hero)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harper Audio
Ride Rough was provided to AudioGals by Harper Audio for a review.