Hard As You Can, by Laura Kaye

Hard As You Can

Grade: C+

Doing it at: 87%

Catnip: Smoking Hot Ex-Military Guy; Tattoos; Girl With A Hard Knock Life; Stripper With A Heart Of Gold; Human Trafficking; Organized Crime; Dangerous Criminal Villain; Alpha Hero; Dual Narrative

Shame scale: Tease shame. I expected shame, I wanted shame, but in the end, I could see my dad reading this one.

Fantasy casting: Timothy Olyphant, Isla Fisher

Book Description:

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed. 

Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn’t want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can–and never let go.

This is the second book in Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series. There is an overarching plot to this series that should be read in order. This book picks up immediately after Hard As It Gets, from the perspective of Shane and Crystal – a stripper who helped them out during the climax of the first book. Crystal is a waitress at a strip club, with a scary abusive mobster boyfriend, who she sees as the lesser of two evils: she’s basically an indentured servant, paying off debts incurred by her late father – as a waitress at the club and Bruno’s girlfriend, rather than as a BDSM slave. She’s also shouldering the burden of this life to protect her sister, a college student with expensive epilepsy meds.

Enter Shane, who met Crystal during the rescue scene at the end of the first book. He is worried about the woman he saw, wonders if she’s alright, and decides to check up on her under the guise of seeing if she’ll help them out in their mission to solve the mystery of how he and the other Smoking Hot Ex-Military guys were all kicked out of the marines. It’s a long story. It’s basically your standard girl needs a hero, guy wants to be her hero story, with a pretty solid solve the mystery, defeat the bad guys plot.

I liked Crystal. She’s working in a strip club and staying with an abusive monster, but she’s not a victim. She’s managing an no-win situation, and methodically planning her exit strategy. With so many of my beloved Shame Books celebrating the billionaire fighter who claims his woman, slays her dragons, and pays her rent, I found this immensely refreshing:

“And Her gut told her that the man with the gray eyes was a savior. Just not hers. No, when she found a way out of this mess-and she would, for both her and Jenna-it was going to be because Crystal got them out. No such thing as white knights or Prince Charmings or caped crusaders in her life, that was for damn sure.”

And Shane. He is an Alpha Hero, who desperately wants to step in and bully Crystal and her sister to safety, but ultimately respects her autonomy, and allows her to accept or reject the help he is offering.

So here’s the rub. That cover makes you think Shameful Romance Book with so much sex. It even uses the word HARD in the title, you guys. In fact, every book in this series has a hot naked torso, entwined with a similarly clad woman, and a Hard something or other title. From the description: “Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed ….  All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can.” So obviously, one would think: this is the kind of book you don’t read in public. Aka a Shame Book. Aka Our Favorite Books.

There is no sex in this book until 87%. There is a tiny bit of outercourse at 55%, but at Mybookshame, Cleone and I are sticklers about the P in the V. So if one picked up this book hoping for a shame read, they would be sorely disappointed. It has about as much sex as the detective books my dad reads. This book is the epitome of a Tease Book. It’s the kind of book that tests our Scientific and Mathy Ratings Matrix. It screams sex on the outside but might as well be the DaVinci code. When I have to hide the cover I deserve to read something worth hiding. I deserve something that can go in the spank bank. I at least have earned something that might make a nun blush. A cover like this should deliver on the promise of a book I wouldn’t want to read aloud to my mother.

That’s really my big complaint about this book, because other than that, it’s pretty good. I enjoyed it a lot. The writing is great, I loved the characters, the plot is engaging, and other than being a big fat Tease, I don’t have anything mean to say about it. I’ll definitely be continuing to read this series, and I might even recommend it to my dad.