Dare To Stay by Jen McLaughlin
Book Two of the Sons of Steel Row series
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***
Summary (from Goodreads):
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 of 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...
What I Liked:
Earlier this year in January, I read and absolutely LOVED Dare To Run by Jen McLaughlin, book one of this series. That book followed Lucas Donahue and Heidi Greene, and it was quite a sizzling, heart-stopping story. This sequel picks up exactly where Dare To Run left off, but in Chris's POV. While I think I loved Dare To Run a little more, I really liked this book!
Chris O'Brien knows that he messed up big time. Trying to kill his best friend in order to take his place in the Sons of Steel Row's hierarchy? Chris should never have put that plan to action. Not only does Lucas not die, but he forgives Chris and lets him go. Now that Lucas and Heidi are "dead" to the world, Chris is free to take Lucas's spot, especially since he has Lucas's written consent. But Chris doesn't want it anymore. Shot and bleeding, he runs into the last person he thought he'd see - Molly Lachlan. Growing up, Molly was his next-door neighbor, a sweet innocent girl who is now a kindergarten teacher. She insists on taking him to her home to clean him up. Chris knows better to bring a woman into his complicated, dangerous life, but he's never been able to say to Molly...
This book did not disappoint, just as I've come to realize that Jen McLaughlin/Diane Alberts does not disappoint. I was apprehensive, after reading book one, because I didn't think I'd like Chris, after what he did to Lucas. But Chris spent the whole book feeling extremely guilty about what he tried to do, and he punishes himself for it. This made me feel better (which sounds sick, I know), because I sooo did not want to read a book about a guy who could try to kill his best friend and walk around like it was fine!
I thought Chris was fine, okay, in book one, but I definitely liked him a lot more in this book. He is hardened and cold on the outside, but he's wracked with guilt and pain on the inside. He had a terrible childhood and he's spent all of his adult life trying to impress his horrible father, who is also a Son of Steel Row. Beneath all of the cold, hard shields, Chris is a lonely guy. He's an amazing artist but doesn't want anyone to know about that - until Molly finds out.
Molly enters the picture when she runs into Chris in the pharmacy. She had just cut her hand by accident; he had just been shot by Lucas and was trying to bandage himself up. Molly sees him, recognizes him, but she isn't afraid. She wants to help him, despite common sense telling her to run. Molly is sweet and innocent, but she's also very intelligent and not blind at all. She knows what Chris is, who he is, and what he does. She's under no illusions about his life.
The two of them are so different and that is what makes them a dynamite couple. Chris is the big bad wolf, and Molly is the sweet lamb. Of course, Chris is also a noble and closeted romantic, and Molly can be stern and stubborn at times (comes with the teacher territory). But they are like fire and ice, and I love watching them burn together (figuratively, of course).
Seriously, the chemistry between these two is pretty hot. You'd think it would have bothered me that these don't even kiss until about halfway through the book. Nope, I wasn't bothered in the least because the tension between them was smoldering throughout the whole book. I like that there was time for them to get reacquainted (they knew each other growing up), and that things didn't just jump straight into the physical.
This isn't quite a second chance romance, since Molly and Chris were never together at any point in the past. They were neighbors, and Chris would always mow the lawn or do odd jobs around Molly's house when her father died five years ago. But then Chris joined the Sons, and Molly didn't see him again. Until that night, when she found him bleeding all over the pharmacy store. Still, I liked that the pair already knew each other. There is a connection there, and it is sweet.
Did I mention that Chris is a closet romantic? He does something sweet for Molly over time and it is so, so sweet.
This book isn't just about Chris and Molly. Chris has to deal with the aftermath of Lucas's "death". Everyone is out to get revenge on whoever killed him (little do they know, it was Chris that tried to kill Lucas, and Lucas is actually still alive). All the while, Bitter Hill men are trying to take down Chris once and for all, and Scotty (Lucas's brother) is trying to get Chris to do something that Chris isn't sure he should do. There is constant action and nonstop danger, and I was not always confident in Chris's ability to stay alive. He gets lucky several times.
The ending was a very satisfying one! It ends well, not cliche but or formulaic but not bittersweet. I'm glad the author made it work for Molly and Chris, in a way that fits them. And she sets up the ending of this book perfectly for book three, Dare To Lie!
What I Did Not Like:
This isn't weighing against the rating but I wish there could have been a Lucas/Heidi cameo! The two of them are in hiding, so it makes sense that they wouldn't show their faces in Boston, but still. A girl can dream! Anyway, this wasn't quite a negative, just a thought!
I don't think there was anything specific that I outright did not like. It was a good read! Not a new favorite but definitely satisfying.
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book, and Dare To Run. I read Dare To Run on a whim in January, and I'm really glad I did that. This series is unique to me, and definitely a favorite for the year (if not, of all time for me). Steamy romance, likable characters, nonstop action -- count me in!
4 stars. I still liked Lucas/Heidi more, but Chris/Molly was great! I really like this bad boy/good girl trope, and I think McLaughlin does a great job writing it. I can't wait to read Dare To Lie, featuring Scotty and... Tate's sister, Skylar!
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