Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlan #Review

Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlan #ReviewDare to Stay by Jen McLaughlan

Series: #2 Sons of Steel Row
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Signet on August 2, 2016
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars      four-flames

The first book ended with a game changing shocker that left me breathless and my brain frozen.  Serious wow-factor.  And this book was to follow it and continue with the fall-out story from the big climax scene.  I didn’t know whether to be excited beyond belief or nervous about the book delivering on it’s promise.  I was a little of both.

This second of the Sons of Steel Row books began exactly where the last one ended, but a new hero and heroine have taken the spotlight.  Obviously, this book isn’t the best idea for a standalone or out of order, but in a pinch, the reader could begin here.

Chris O’Brien thought he was one of the bad guys with dirt and blood on his hands, but then he committed the worst sin he could- he betrayed another Son and a blood brother, but also his best friend.  It can’t get lower or blacker than that.  He started out wanting and needing to get his hard, brutal dad’s approval and instead has become him.  Growing up under that mean abuse had taken it’s toll, but somehow his need for a parent’s approval had survived intact until now when what it took to achieve it tasted bitter and empty.

When the Bitter Hill gang catch up to him, he almost doesn’t care that they are going to kill him for his part in the loss of some of their brothers, but his survival kicks in and he fights them off.  Bleeding out and near death, an angel of mercy finds him and ignores his threats and growls, brings him into her home to take care of him.

Molly Lachlan lives in fear since the day her kind, gentle father was gunned down by a gang member in Boston’s southie Steel Row neighborhood.  She teaches her kindergartners and goes home alone every night.  No going out on the town with friends, no dates, no anything.  She doesn’t want to get attached so she never has to hurt when it’s gone and she definitely wants nothing to do with danger.  So why she helped a lethally dangerous gang member of the Sons of Steel Row, she doesn’t want to examine too closely because there is no good sane reason.

Molly recognizes Chris.  She grew up next door to him after all.   Oh sure, everyone in their affluent neighborhood knew that Chris’ dad made his money in an illegal way and that he’s a gang tough who raised his son to follow him, but Chris was always sweet to her.  After her dad died, he quietly did things around her home like lawnwork, painting, and snow removal.  But Molly kept her distance.  Only now, she can’t just let the man die or let him go even if he insists his presence in her home isn’t safe for her.  As he heals, Molly learns a new perspective and realizes that she was pretty lucky and Chris never had her luck the way he was raised and he did the best he could with the hand life dealt him.  He is still dark and his hands have blood on them.  Molly can’t handle his dangerous life and the possibility that if she let him inside her emotional walls that he’d leave her just like her father.

Bitter Hill raises the ante on the gang war between them and the Sons.  Chris keeps his new resolution to protect Lucas’ little brother Scotty in his undercover work even while working hard to keep Molly safe.  Physically safe from the danger that surrounds him and safe from him hurting her heart.  She’s a beautiful angel of light and he won’t soil her even if he wants her more than anything and wants her to want him back.  Dare he stay and hope?

Alright, I was glad to get back into the Sons of Steel world.  This story took a step back and spent a lot of time in Molly’s clean ordinary world, but the other grittier world crashed across the line now and then in sharp contrast.  It was like a West Side Story plot.  Chris did the unforgiveable and yet I was rooting for his redemption and chance at happiness.  I liked getting more of Scotty and the deep danger he is in doing what he is doing.  Molly was sweet and nice, but didn’t grab me as a character like Chris.  He pulled all the emotion from his past, his huge mistakes and his painful and changing present as he transformed.

The story was strong though I didn’t feel it was as sharp and tight as it could have been.  The point about Chris and Molly’s differences was painted on rather heavy so that it was always brought up.  I got the point early on- he’s a murdering thug and she’s a sweet innocent.  He lives in a violent world and she lives in a nurturing one.  Got it.

The conflict was solid and believable when it comes to their romance.  Chris really is stuck and even if he wants to change and leave, he can’t.  And Molly won’t.  So things are doomed from the start.  I liked that the author didn’t do a half-way job with Molly or Chris’s characters and development.  She didn’t make it easy and she didn’t gloss over the tough stuff.

Chris did a horrid thing and he has to pay for it.  He has to restore the situation he caused and earn back the trust of one of the men he wronged to do the right thing.  He has to live with the fact that he and his life are not right for Molly and take it when she pushes him away.

Molly is who and what she is and it isn’t easy or immediate for her to accept her attraction to Chris or do anything with it.  The violence terrifies her and it should.  She is caught in the crossfire more than once.  What I thought was too far was her naive decision to drive her expensive car down into Steel Row sticking out like a lighthouse beacon and look for Chris like a little bunny prey for the wolf hunters after the rival gang had already proven that they will take her or take her out to hurt Chris and he told her so.  Then she turns around and wants him gone because she can’t handle the violence (so what was the point of going to find him?).

As a couple, it was bittersweet as they grew close.  Chris wasn’t used to softness or someone caring for him.  He didn’t know what to do when Molly wanted to do something special for him.  Just like she was confused when he wanted to protect her and do things for her and he didn’t immediately want to get rough and tumble her in bed.  Molly saw beneath the surface with Chris and brought out the best in him just as he helped her get past her need to close off the world and the world of feeling because she was scared of being hurt.

This was something a bit different from the first book, but no less good in it’s own way.  I had to sneak the preview chapters for the next book because I am dying for Scotty’s story.  And yay, he is indeed next.  All in all these are fantastic romances set in the dark gritty world of a gang that don’t glamorize the life, but bring the people and their relationships alive.  I would recommend them for those who enjoy the rougher worlds and settings of anti-heroes and their dangerous lives.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #251 CR
Bad Boys #33

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

Latest posts by Sophia Rose (see all)

  • Debbie Haupt

    sounds interesting Sophia Rose but I’m not sure if its for me. Thanks!

    • Haha, no sweat, Debbie! This series is definitely not for everyone. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

  • Let me take a second to sit here and appreciate that COVER for second, though… Okay, phew, I think I’m done for now. 😉 I love the sound of this and it’s totally worth reading if the characters, their world, and the romance (the huge part of the story) was told in a believable way. 🙂

    • Oh boy! You are very welcome to take your time over the cover, Keionda. Worth the view!

      Yes, I thought the author did a good job writing this gritty story with believable characters to match it.

  • This is a new to me author and after your review I’m very curious about the book.

    • Oh good! Just call me the book temptress, Mary. Haha!

  • Sounds like the first book really ended with a bang, I can see why that made you excited and nervous for this book. You do make me curious about this one, it sounds dark and gritty in a good way. And it sounds like the characters are both interesting and have their own struggles. And like they have a long road ahead of them to make it work, with their differences and how he can’t change and she doesn’t want to. And I am always excited when the character I hope is next has their book next. I hope the next book is a good one! Great review!

    • Oh yes, you nailed it about what I found exciting. I won’t spoil the big thing at the end of book one for you in case you ever go to read it, but it really had me excited to see what came next in this book. They are so different and it’s intriguing to see how the author brings them together.
      Yahoo! Definitely glad Scotty’s book is next. I’ve been wanting that since all the stuff came out in book one. 🙂

  • My review posts tomorrow, and I loved this one. All the feels, and yep I was surprised but I really felt for Chris 🙂

    • I will be glad to see your book love on it, but my visit probably won’t be until Thursday as I’m headed out to visit an old family friend for a couple of days. Yes, Chris was a surprise. I couldn’t believe how I came to feel for him and root for him.

  • Ohhh lots of feels and it sounds a bit gritty. I’d like to read this … after I read the first book. 😉

    • Well spotted! Definitely want to read that first book before moving on to this one. Yes, this one definitely has the feels and the gritty tone. Hope you enjoy it if you’re able to snag it.

  • Just read Kim’s review for this and it looks like I need to add this one to my shelf.

    • Yes, the gang up method of tempting readers. 😉 I get excited, too, when I see other bloggers I visit enjoying the same book.

  • Ergs! This is one I’ve not gotten to yet because of my reading slump. I’ll try to fit book one in first. Hopefully I can manage that 😀

    • Oh yes, you really must fit these in. I think book two edges out book one for me, but they are both pretty stellar stuff. 😉

  • Serious wow-factor indeed! After the end of Dare To Run, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to read this book… Chris didn’t seem redeemable. But he totally was! I adored this book so much. The only thing I really wanted to see was maybe a Heidi /Lucas cameo? Hopefully at some point in the rest of the series. 😀

    Great review, Sophia!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • For sure, Alyssa!

      Oh yes, that cameo would make my day, too. Maybe at the end of Scotty’s book we can get a reunion…

  • I am enjoying this series and agree it is best read in order. I cannot wait for the next book 🙂