Wednesday, February 3, 2016

#Review: Dare to Run by Jen McLaughlin - 4.5 Wine Glasses

25737825Title: Dare to Run
Series: The Sons of Steel Row #1
Author: Jen McLaughlin
Format: Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published: February 2nd 2016 by Signet
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Reviewer: Crystal
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses

The New York times bestselling author of the Out of Line Novels takes readers to Boston where one gang of criminals knows how being bad can be so good...

She knows what he’s like on Boston’s mean streets. Now she’s going to find out if he’s got some heart.

Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble.

Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one. 

Crystal's Thoughts:
A deliciously dark and sensual read, Jen McLaughlin's Dare to Run is easily my favorite book of the year so far!

Lucas Donahue is a tough-talking criminal, new parolee, and high-ranking member of the The Sons of Steel Row gang in Boston. All of those attributes don't stop someone from putting a hit out of him though. The only two people he can trust are his brother and best friend...or can he? Good thing he always has an escape plan. But when he unexpectedly comes to the rescue of the sexy bar owner next-door, Lucas finds himself claiming her as his own and putting them both in the cross-hairs of a rival gang, The Bitter Hill gang.
Heidi Greene is a straight-shooting young woman who owns and runs The Patriot, a local bar in the squalor of Steel Row. She's been taking care of herself for a long time and refuses to be pushed around in her own bar. But when a local gang brutally attacks her one night, she knows that she must accept help from the sexy and dangerous gangster if she wants to survive. What she couldn't have predict though was how hard she would fall for the man hiding under the hardened veneer, or what lengths someone might go to in order to use her against him...

With pulse-pounding suspense and a red-hot romance, Dare to Run held me captivated from beginning to end. The dark alleys and docks of Boston provide the backdrop of this tale, and though I have never visited that area, I could easily picture the dirty snow in the streets, the homeless-filled damp alleyways, the energy of Fenway Park and more. Jen McLaughlin has penned a vivid story here that I was immediately pulled into. The protagonists aren't your average contemporary romance couple, you won't find anything light and fluffy about them or their journeys. In fact, Lucas is more of an anti-hero then a hero, and I couldn't have liked him more because of it!

Raised by his mother in in the slums, Lucas joined The Sons of Steel Row in order to pay for her healthcare as she became sick and then later on to help support and protect his younger brother. He did what he had to do at the time, but now guilt festers inside of him because of the choices he's made and the life that not only he leads, but his brother now leads as well. In the beginning of the story Lucas comes off as an angry and aggressive character, but it doesn't take long for his heart of gold to shine through, no matter how much he tried to hide it. I loved watching his soft, caring side slowly emerge with Heidi. There were definitely some swoon-worthy moments there. Heidi herself was a strong, independent character that while sometimes frustratingly stubborn, I had no problem getting behind. She has a bleak past of her own, but thanks to a friendly older man who took her in off the streets, she's been able to rise above it. These are characters who were forged from fire and who I couldn't help rooting for with every page.

Lucas and Heidi have a dangerous and unstoppable attraction. Dangerous, not only because their lives are on the line and one wrong step could cost them, but because if they let themselves fall only to loose, they'll be left alone once again. There's no stopping the raw sexual tension that burns between them though, one that I could feel vibrating through the air while reading. These two were exquisite together and I truly did not want the story to end. The plot was fast paced and kept me anticipating each turn of the page. I did figure out the story's big twist after a specific scene, but despite that I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout it which is an attribute to the author's fantastic writing. I really was immersed in this present-day gangster world and am beyond curious to see where the story leads next, especially considering who the next book is about...The ending was somewhat of a surprise for me and wrapped up a little too neatly for my tastes but if it hadn't been for that little aspect, this would have been a 5 Wine Glass read all the way. 

Bottom line; Dare to Run was a story filled with a dark and gritty reality coupled with a scorching romance, and my newest addiction. I can easily picture this story-line being turned into a tv series similar to Boardwalk Empire or The Sopranos (with a better ending). If you're a fan of mafia themed, motorcycle club (though this is not one), or criminals turned heroes stories, then you're sure to love Dare to Run! Pick it up today!

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